What is self-harm?
Self-harm refers to intentionally injuring oneself in an attempt to cope with trauma or underlying mental health conditions. Self-harm occurs in many forms, and it most often occurs as cutting, scratching, burning, or self-hitting. Other forms of self-harm involve piercing and inserting objects under one’s skin.
People engage in self-harm as a way to take control of their emotions during difficult situations and while suffering from mental health challenges. The pain from self-harm injuries may distract a person from issues in other aspects of their life, and with some people, self-harm provides a temporary calming experience. Unfortunately, these short-term motivations that cause a person to engage in self-harm do not address the underlying reasons that drive their self-harm behavior.
Risk factors for self-harm include experiencing trauma through difficult home life or abuse. While self-harm affects people of all ages, the behavior is most common among younger teens. Most people stop self-harm behavior after just a few incidents.
It is important to note that self-harm is different from suicide. In most cases, people engage in self-harm without the intention to kill themselves. However, self-harm behavior can lead to suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. Additionally, self-harm can lead to suicide due to unintentionally severe self-inflicted injuries. These unintentionally severe self-injuries often occur under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the individual misjudges the impacts of their actions.
What are the signs and symptoms of self-harm?
Signs and symptoms of self-harm often include physical markers of the injury. These markers include scratches, bruises, and scars. Typically, scars from self-harm injuries occur in patterns and near the wrists. People may notice that individuals who engage in self-harm may consistently wear long-sleeved shirts in an attempt to hide signs of their self-harm behaviors.
In addition to the physical effects of self-harm injuries, children and teens who engage in self-harm may also exhibit a range of emotional and psychological symptoms. Self-harm behavior often comes with low self-esteem and feelings of hopelessness.
Additionally, individuals who engage in self-harm may exhibit impulsive decision-making and instability throughout multiple areas of their lives, as well as difficulty forming and maintaining interpersonal relationships.