Self-Harm: Recognizing, Understanding, & Addressing Destructive Behaviors

What to do if you are thinking about harming yourself

Self-harm comes in many shapes and forms. It is most often seen as a coping mechanism when dealing with a mental illness such as anxiety and depression. As the feelings become overwhelming, an individual may seek a release or distraction of sorts. Self-harm is any form of hurting oneself on purpose, though not done as an attempt of suicide.

woman bruised self-harm
Common types of self-harm can include:
  • cutting
  • scratching
  • burning
  • carving words or symbols into skin
  • hitting or punching oneself
  • piercing skin with sharp objects
  • pulling out hair

The stigma of self-harm creates shame and embarrassment for those who see it, which is why the individual self-harming will try to hide the evidence of their behavior. For example, if you see a loved one or peer wearing long sleeves on a hot day, it could potentially be a sign of hiding cuts on their arms.

There is no single cause that can lead to someone self-harming. Self-harm can be a result from poor coping skills. This means that in the eyes of the individual, self injury may feel like the best result to distract from their psychological pain. Difficulty managing emotions—feelings of worthlessness, loneliness, panic, guilt—can cause someone to want to hurt themselves, but not to the extent of suicide. These behaviors often start in early teen years when they are faced with new emotions and pressures.

snapping rubber band on wrist self-harm
There are many alternative coping mechanisms to avoid or reduce self-harm:
  • scribble on photos of people
  • tear apart newspapers
  • go to the gym
  • hold ice in your hands or against your arm
  • snap a rubber band against your wrist
  • put tiger balm on the places you want to cut
  • count up to ten getting louder until you are screaming

The list goes on, but it just goes to show that there are ways to not hurt yourself in order to get your feelings out. There are people surrounding you that also want to help you with what you are feeling. If you or a loved one is coping with mental illness through self-harm, clinicians in our Counseling & Wellness Centers are available to help.

Call our main number at 844-4-ACENDA (844-422-3632 x9500) for more information or to schedule an appointment.