Self Injury Awareness Month
By: Staci Lee Schnell, M.S.,C.S., LMFT
March 9, 2014
Self-injury or self harming is when a person deliberately hurts themselves physically to deal with emotional pain. Self-harm can be a way of coping with one’s problems, may help one express feelings they can’t put into words, may act as a distraction from life, or can be a release of emotional pain.
When it comes to self-harm, cutting is thought of as the main way people hurt themselves. But burning, bruising and scratching are amongst other methods used by people who are very distressed.
Myths and Facts about cutting and self-harm
Myth: People who cut and self-injure are trying to get attention.
Fact: The painful truth is that people who self-harm generally do so in secret. They aren’t trying to manipulate others or draw attention to themselves. In fact, shame and fear can make it very difficult to come forward and ask for help.
Myth: People who self-injure are crazy and/or dangerous.
Fact: It is true that many people who self-harm suffer from anxiety, depression, or PTSD—just like millions of others. Self-injury is how they cope. Slapping them with a “crazy” or “dangerous” label isn’t accurate or helpful.
Myth: People who self-injure want to die.
Fact: Self-injurers usually do not want to die. When they self-harm, they are not trying to kill themselves—they are trying to cope with their pain. In fact, self-injury may be a way of helping themselves go on living. However, in the long-term, people who self-injure have a much higher risk of suicide, which is why it’s so important to seek help.
Myth: If the wounds aren’t bad, it’s not that serious.
Fact: The severity of a person’s wounds has very little to do with how much he or she may be suffering. Don’t assume that because the wounds or injuries are minor, there’s nothing to worry about.
Although self-harm and cutting can give temporary relief, it is quickly followed by feelings of shame and guilt. Most importantly, it keeps one from learning more effective strategies in managing overwhelming stressors and emotions.
With the help and support of a trained therapist, one can work to overcome self-harming. A therapist can help one develop new coping techniques and strategies.