self harm

Self Harm: How to Get Help

Watching a loved one go through pain is heartbreaking. But when they are the cause of their own pain, it can be equally heartbreaking and confusing.  They may not be aware of why they injure themselves, at Trauma and Beyond ® our team of expert therapists will work with your loved one towards developing an understanding of why they may feel the need to self harm while helping them develop alternative ways to cope with their pain. 

self harm

What is self-harm?

Self-injury is the intentional self-inflicted violence on one’s own body.  It can be with or without suicidal intent. And, it ranges in different degrees and types of harm. 

Methods of self-harm

  • Cutting: the act of cutting or stabbing one’s own skin with a blade or other sharp object, resulting in bleeding and most often, scarring
  • Burning: the act of burning one’s own skin
  • Hair pulling: Also known as trichotillomania, is the act of pulling out one’s own hair and sometimes ingesting it
  • Impact: the act of punching or bangings oneself with one’s own body or objects to the point of bleeding and bruising
  • Scratching: the act of scratching oneself with one’s own nails or with objects to the point of bleeding and scarring

Signs of self-harm

Many people that self-harm attempt to hide that they are injuring their own bodies. They may try to cover up their bodies with clothing or bandages, regardless of the weather. Or they may cancel plans altogether. Although clothing and canceling obligations may not be enough evidence to determine that your loved one is self-harming, there are other signs to keep in mind.

Take notice if your loved one:

  • Carries sharp objects with them
  • Always has harmful objects at a distance
  • Fresh cuts, scratches, bruises
  • Engages in dangerous activities
  • Neglects you and other loved ones
  • Develops unpredictable behavior
  • Questions identity
  • Displays hopelessness
  • Mood swings
  • Extreme distress when emotionally activated

Understanding self-harm

Injuring one’s own body is a maladaptive type of coping mechanism that some people utilize when they feel a loss of control during emotional distress. A person may also use self-injury to feel in control of their emotions when they have difficulty managing emotions such as panic, anger, rejection, guilt, and confused sexuality. The act of inflicting harm gives the self-abuser momentary relief from the emotional pain they feel. Most often, a self-harmer feels shame after the act and cycles back into emotional distress. This behavior is often developed as a result of trauma during childhood and adolescence, or at times, later-in-life trauma. 

Ways to help

There is no one size fits all treatment for self-harm. A person who inflicts pain upon themselves will need to see a therapist to diagnose the underlying issues the person is suffering from such as depression, trauma, personality disorders or trauma.  Our therapists can recommend trauma-informed therapy such as EMDR, NARM, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Somatic Experiencing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness-based therapy, psychodynamic therapy, or Neurofeedback to address self harming behavior.   With therapy, your loved one can learn how to better manage distress, gain tools to better regulate emotions, develop relationships and social skills, and improve self-image.

Developing awareness and understanding of this behavior is also part of the healing process.  There are resources and information online that can help you and your loved one better understand why people are motivated to self-injure themselves. Simply starting the conversation around self-harm may open the door to the possibility of getting help. 

Because many self-injurers feel shame around their behavior, it is important to carefully navigate how you approach your loved one that self-harms. To get help for your loved one, state your concern for their safety first, then suggest they seek a medical doctor and mental health professional. Call Trauma and Beyond ®  today at (818) 651-0725 to make a free consultation.