self-harmers may engage in injurious behavior on impulse. When impulsive
self-harm begets momentary calm and relief from tension, the behavior can
become repetitive and addictive. Self-harmers continue to cut (despite the
guilt that follows), because they crave temporary relief from stress
and psychological pain.
majority of self-harmers engage in skin cutting behaviors, many other forms of
self-harm exist. Individuals may also scratch, burn, pull out hair, break
bones, hit, punch, pierce the skin, ingest toxic substances, bite, carve the
skin or interfere with wound healing.
Risk factors associated with
cutting and self-injury.
hurt themselves for a myriad of reasons. In addition to relieving stress,
anxiety or pressure, people cut to relieve feelings of gross inadequacy and a
serious lack of self-esteem. Risk factors for self-injury include suffering
co-occurring disorders such as depression, bipolar
disorder or phobia; a history of child abuse or other childhood
trauma; and having friends who self-injure. Self-harmers also have an
increased risk of suicide and substance abuse.
Signs of self-injury.
is often kept secret, so it can be difficult to detect its signs and symptoms. Signs
of self-injurious behavior may include, but are not limited to:
cuts, bruises or other wounds
long pants and long sleeves, even in hot weather
from friends and family
- A tendency
to keep sharp objects on hand
to have frequent accidents
- Injuries on
areas of the body that are easily reached (front of torso, arms and legs)
Treating cutting and self-injury
self-harmers usually involves psychiatric treatment or cognitive-behavioral
therapy. Therapy usually involves teaching the individual healthier coping
strategies for dealing with the triggers that lead to to self-harm. Medical
interventions may also be helpful, particularly in cases with co-occurring
mental disorders. Inpatient treatment may be necessary for those at high risk
for serious injury.