This is part one of a two series blog on self harm.
Self-harm is when you hurt yourself as a way of dealing with difficult feelings, painful memories or overwhelming situations and experiences. After self-harming you may feel a short-term release, but the cause of your distress has not disappeared. Self-harm can also bring up very difficult emotions and could make you feel worse.
Forms of Self Harm
Self-harm typically occurs in private and is done in a controlled or ritualistic manner. Some forms of self-harm include:
- Carving words or symbols on the skin
- Self-hitting, punching, or head banging
- Piercing the skin
- Inserting objects under the skin
The arms, legs, and front torso are commonly the targets of self-injury, but any area of the body may be used. People who self-injure may use more than one method to harm themselves.
Why People Self-Harm
There is no one single factor that causes someone to self-harm. It may result from poor coping skills and/or the inability to cope in healthy ways to psychological pain. Some self-harm because of an inability to regulate, express, or understand emotions. The emotions that often trigger self-harm are complex and may involve feelings of worthlessness, loneliness, panic, anger, guilt, rejection, self-hatred, or confused sexuality.
Some people have described self-harm as a way to:
- express something that is difficult to put into words
- convert invisible thoughts or feelings into something visible
- turn emotional pain into physical pain
- decrease overwhelming emotional feelings or thoughts
- create a sense of control
- escape traumatic memories
- punish themselves for their feelings and experiences
- stop feeling numb, disconnected or dissociated
- create a reason to physically care for themselves
- express suicidal feelings and thoughts without taking their own life.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 25% of people engage in self-harm. Up to 30% of teenage girls and 10% of boys report having intentionally hurt themselves. These percentages reflect a significant increase over the past 10 years, especially among girls. Self-harm increased 166% in girls aged 10-14 and 62% in girls ages 15-19. Since 2009, the rate of cutting, the most common form of self-harm, among girls ages 10-14 has increased 18.8% each year.
Next week, we’ll look at risk factors to self-harm, warning signs of it, and ways to prevent and treat it.