Self-harm means injuring your body deliberately in a way that leaves marks or causes damage. It may also be called self-injury, self-mutilation, self-inflicted violence, self-destructive behavior, self-abuse, and parasuicidal behavior. Self-harm does not mean that you want to die. You may hurt yourself, even though you want to live.
If you deliberately harm yourself, you may be trying to cope with something that you feel you cannot stand any longer. You may have been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused. You may have a history of some other form of trauma. You may want to escape from intense emotions such as rage, loneliness, bitterness, or guilt. You may want to escape from feeling numb and emotionless. You may use self-harm to manipulate others, or you may feel ashamed of your actions and try to hide the evidence from others.
Self-harm may replace an unbearable situation, intense emotion, or numbness. It may help you to release tension, feel safe again, or feel alive. You may feel that you can get revenge or get back at someone by hurting yourself.
Self-harm can release body chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins give you a sense of well-being. Unfortunately, this sense of well-being does not last long. The next time you are faced with intense emotions or emotional numbness, you are likely to self-harm again to escape and feel better. If you self-harm, you may be at a higher risk for suicide due to acting on impulse and the danger of certain self-harm behaviors.
The following can help reduce symptoms:
One type of therapy that may help is dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). DBT teaches you to manage unbearable situations in a healthy way instead of harming yourself. DBT teaches you how to deal with stress, regulate your feelings, and to validate your feelings. Many mental health centers and therapists provide DBT. Your therapist can help you learn safer, alternative ways to communicate, self-soothe, and cope. Journaling, art therapy, relaxation techniques, and physical exercise may be useful to replace self-harm behaviors.
First, ask yourself these questions:
Deciding to stop self-harm is a very personal decision. Your first task when you decide to stop is to break the cycle and find new ways to cope. When you pick up a knife or lighter or get ready to hit something, you have to make a conscious decision to do something else. Here are some ideas:
If you are angry, frustrated, or restless:
If you are sad, depressed, or unhappy:
If you are craving sensation or feeling unreal:
If you want to see blood or pick scabs:
If you are thinking of committing suicide, seek help immediately.