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Self-injury/self-harm

Updated on October 2, 2014

What is self-injury??

Self-injury is defined as causing injuries to yourself enough to cause serious damage to the tissue or skin marks that remain visible for several hours. The most common form of self-injury is cutting with a sharp object, while somewhat rare forms are burning, hitting with head or scratching. Self-injury is often played out in secret and is accompanied by the feeling of shame. Therefore, traces of injuries is not always easy to notice and it happens that none of the residents or close friends don't even suspect that the person is self-injuring.

Self-injury occurs with the aim of mental, emotional, physical pain to be replaced. It is a wrong thinking that self-injury is a step to suicide. Self-injury is an act with which a person wants to relive itself from psychological pressure and to feel better. Self-injury is not an end in itself but is a consequence of the problems that the person had on her back.

Photo credit: quapan / Foter / CC BY

Why do people self-injure themselves?

This behavior can be a consequence of excessive repetitive feelings that a person can't stand or other inability to sense anything. The strength of feelings that lead to such behavior varies from person to person and what is crucial is that the person can't cope with those feelings. It is possible that the feelings are too strong and physical pain allows to release of them. It also happens that relief contribution helps the belief that the person is by inflicting physical lesions made for herself emotional pain more realistic. If a person doesn't know how to channel their own feelings, in the moment when those feelings become stronger, the person gets caught in the whirlwind of different emotions, in which the person can't differentiate none of those emotions. With physical hurting, in a way, the person focuses those emotions on a very primitive level and gives them reality. The ability for channeling emotions develops in early childhood, and for its proper development is important, first of all, the relationship with his mother. She is the one that does the channeling of feelings in early childhood, and the one who trains the child with the help of empathy for the life in which emotions are channeled and are not overflowing. When the child is very little, it is necessary that at some moments it feels that is overwhelmed with feelings because it didn't learn nor their true meaning or the ways in which they could be free.

For example, malnutrition in early childhood experiences as expressed discomfort in the stomach that creates tension, and the mother's task is to recognize, calm child and feed him in order to learn the meaning of the inconvenience and method of relief. However, if the mother doesn't respond adequately to a child it will never learn how to accept the unpleasant feelings, and it will go through life often overwhelmed with them without knowing how they are channeled. Such a person seeks immediate and quick solution for the release of feelings with which she doesn't know what to do. One way of doing this is self-injury.

Self-injury can be a result of fear of some major injuries. Person reassures himself that by self-injuring he prevented a much greater injury. Such self-injury is in a close relationship with a sense of control over her own body which is normally weak in these subjects.

Another common cause of this behavior is self-loathing. It is particularly common in people who have had enduring emotional, physical or sexual abuse in childhood. Victims of abuse often blame themselves for what happened to them, which leads to such a strong sense of guilt to get the need to punish myself.

Photo credit: 3 0 d a g a r m e d a n a l h u s / Foter / CC BY-ND

What do you think? - Are these people suicidal?

Do you think that people who self-injure themselves can commit suicide?

Characteristics of persons who self-injure them

Among persons who are prone to self-injury there are different structures of personalities with different characteristics, but it is still possible to identify some characteristics that are in this population more often seen than with other people.

One such characteristic is the magical thinking is the belief that the physical wounds make emotional pain realistic or that injuring themselves prevents another, more serious injuries. These people are also often withdrawn and rarely openly express their feelings. They often come from families where open expression of feelings is not allowed. In many families, the children are often not allowed to express negative feelings such as anger or resentment, and thus they never learn what to do with strong negative feelings and how to channel them.

Often with self-injury person reveals other disorders such as obsessive compulsive neurosis, abuse of various substances or an eating disorder. These disorders are commonly connected with self-injury, because each of these disorders is based on the problem with control. Each of these disorders, as well as self-injury can be a person's attempt to establish some sort of control over her own life, body and emotions.

In people prone to self-injury is common the lack of adequate social support. Inadequate social environment can be the result of a divorce or some tragic event in the person’s life after which its original social network was violated.

Self-injury in teens

Self-injury in teenagers is very frequent, and in some teen circles is presented as socially acceptable.It's not uncommon in those circles that they openly talk about self-injury. Self-injury in teens is totally different from self-injury of adults. In this period of life comes to a sudden changes in the body that are often not aligned with the mental development. A teenager is surprised with all these changes and often have problems with their acceptance. Resistance to the body is often very strong and self-injury form represents a refusal to accept the new body.

Teenage days are also the days of rebellion, and it is possible that the teenager turns to self-injury, often inflicting cuts, in order to express their rebellion and to shock the environment. Shock that causes the cutting actually has the function of proving independence and instills a teenager feeling that he has control over his life. In connection with the need for independence in teens are common problems that occur in relationships with all authority figures, parents, teachers and the like. Anger towards parents is quite regularly present at some point, and if it is intense it is possible that in some cases leads to self-injury and solely for the purpose of injuring others. Pain that teenager feels is a small price for him which he pays to get back at his parents. In these cases, when the cause of self-injury is anger toward the parents or causing shock, self-injury can be stopped with working on relationship improvement with the parents. Self-injury can also appear at the level of experiment because it is something that is often a topic in their peer group. In this case, it happens only once, and then it stops, and no interventions are needed.

However, if self-injury doesn't stop spontaneously, no matter what the reason is for starting self-injury, it is necessary to seek professional help, and as in adults, it involves passing through psychotherapeutic treatment

How to recognize self-injury?

Sometimes it is very difficult to identify this problem because people who are self-injuring themselves often feel shame and guilt, and they are trying to hide the scars and often they are very successful at it. However, there are some warning signs that family and close friends may also notice and provide help in seeking professional help.

Scars - the most striking sign is of course the existence of wounds that person can't explain. Wounds, usually in the form of cuts, bruises and burns from cigarettes, are usually found on wrists, arms, thighs or breasts.

Signs of depression, moodiness, tearfulness, lack of motivation and loss of energy may also indicate self-injury.

Frequent accidents. Person explains his wounds with awkwardness and clumsiness and states constantly a new accident.

Changes in the feeding regimen. People prone to self-injury often have problems or at least some specific and unusual habits concerning nutrition. They often eat in secret or changing body weight. Weight loss or rapid weight gain may be associated with self-injury because what stands behind self-harm is very similar to what takes dieting disorder.

Covering with clothes - no matter the wather, the person is always wearing long sleeves and pants, of course to hide the scars.

Photo credit: visibleducts / Foter / CC BY-NC

Your opinions and thoughts! - Feel free to share your thoughts about this topic. Thanks for visit!

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    • goldenrulecomics profile image

      goldenrulecomics 4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing. This is something we should all be on the lookout for.

    • pumpum profile image
      Author

      pumpum 4 years ago

      @clkbm: Thank you for visiting.

    • clkbm profile image

      clkbm 4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing. There is a lot of great educational information here on self injury.

    • pumpum profile image
      Author

      pumpum 4 years ago

      @beaworkathomemom: I am glad to hear that. Thank you!

    • beaworkathomemom profile image

      beaworkathomemom 4 years ago

      I learned a lot from your lens. It educates people about self-injury and maybe we can help others too, in our own way.