Self-harm does not discriminate against any gender, race educational background, age, sexual orientation, social economic status or religion. It affects a multitude of people around the world. Self-harm, or self- injury is the act of intentionally injuring one’s own body that typically leaves behind marks or can even do damage to body tissues. It is used as a coping mechanism most of the time.
Self- injury can include cutting, burning (“branding”), picking at skin, picking at scabs, re-opening wounds, hair pulling (trichotillomania), head banging, hitting oneself (can involve the use of bjects but not always), bone breaking, biting oneself, scratching or even refusal to take prescription medication. Self- harm is known as many different terms such as self- mutilation, self- inflicted violence, self- injury, self- destructive behavior, self- abuse, and parasuicidal behavior. People who self- harm usually feel that self- injury is a way of temporarily relieving intense feelings, pressure and/ or anxiety.
They may use self- harm to help them feel “alive”, to mask their emotional pain with physical pain, to feel in control of the pain unlike the pain that they may have experienced hrough physical, sexual or emotional abuse (if they were a victim). They may also use self- harm to provide a way to stop emotional numbness, ask for help in an indirect way, use it as a form of manipulation into making others care or feel guilty or as an outgrowth of abuse believing that the abuse they encountered in their past was deserved. There are many long- term effects of self- injury that can affect the self- harmer emotionally, physically and psychologically.
These effects are very serious and should not be taken lightly. There are not many statistics about self- injury because many who do or have articipated in the act of self- injury do not or will not tell somebody what has happened in fear of what others will think, do, or say. Even with that, there still are some of the people who have self- harmed that have come forward. Adolescents are the most at risk. 14%- 21% are high school students. 40%- 61% are teenagers with psychological disorders. 14%- 35% are university psychology students. Of all of the people who have inflicted self- harm will repeat the act.
Self- injurers have an increased risk of suicide anywhere from 0. 24%- 4. 3%. The use of self- harm is more ommonly found in adolescent females, people with a history that involved sexual, physical or emotional abuse, people current problems with substance abuse, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or eating disorders, people who were discouraged when it came to the expression of anger and people who lack a good social support network. There also been self- harm problems faced in monasteries, nunneries as well as prisons. There are many contributing factors of self- harm.
Some things that can contribute to the use of self- injury can be low self- esteem, intense, uncontrollable motions, and high levels of stress or anxiety. They may also have emotional numbness, if the person has hyper- reactive emotions or are in an emotionally chaotic environment, the self- harmer may be seeking revenge and think that this will give them that sense of revenge. There may be trouble with school, parents, partners, siblings, health or peers, they could be being bullied, or they may have emotional uncontrollable and may make the self- injurer feel overwhelmed and at a loss as to what they should do.
The person may have Alexithymia. Alexithymia is a disorder that auses a person to have an inability to express their emotions. When someone cannot express their emotions freely and easily this can cause that person to feel trapped and self- harm is a way to let them release their emotions. Self- harm can be a result and the cause of dissociative periods. These dissociative periods are where a person places themselves in isolation which can be done consciously but is typically don subconsciously.
Dissociative periods are used as a form of protection of the psych, from emotions, thoughts, sensations that may cause unwanted feelings or nxiety that could have been caused from family issues or peer issues. Some people who self- injure may use self- harm as a form of punishment for having strong feelings that they were not allowed to express or were never taught to express when they were younger, feeling bad or undeserving, or they may have feelings of self- hatred. There are lots of emotional effects and some can be tied in with physical effects as well.
Self- harm can also cause emotional problems for the person. There are physical effects that can happen with the use of the self- harm. Along ith these effects there is a cycle that the act of self- injury follows (see appendix). The first thing that happens in the cycle is a trigger incident. The trigger incident is the event in which something happened that caused the feeling of the need to self- harm. Then there are uncontrollable emotions. When the self- injurer feels at a loss as to what they should do with these emotions they then self- harm causing what is called the release.
The release is a release of endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals that the brain releases that make your body feel good. These endorphins give the erson a sense of feeling “alive”. Shortly after they will have a loss of that sense. This part of the cycle typically starts when there is a reconnection of the mind and body through pain. Then the cycle will repeat. If the self- harm is a major case it can have very serious, permanent, and harmful effects. These effects can become as serious as self- amputation, auto- castration, or self- immolation.
Besides these, self- harm can end up fatal. Self- harm can also lead to substance abuse. Self- injurers may turn to substances such as drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse can become a new “outlet” orm them. Self- harmers and ex- self- harmers are also, typically, very impulsive and act on a whim with very little or no thought at all as to what they are about to do or about the consequences that may impact them greatly in the end. Self- harm is linked to some psychological disorders. Self- harm itself is not listed as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
But, in the 2000 Edition (DSM-IV-TR) mentions that self- injury is a symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder, Stereotypic Movement Disorder, Factitious Disorder, Post- raumatic Stress Disorder and Depression. People who have Borderline Personality Disorder who self- harm often do it because of emotional vulnerability, reactivity and intensity. And they will often have Alexithymia. Self- injurers may feel they need to be “perfect” at everything. This perfectionism is mostly of social requirements rather than the individuals self- requirements.
Self- harm can be considered a gateway to suicide but there is a distinction between suicide and impulsive self- harm, and suicide and deliberate self- harm. Self- harm that is done impulsively is done with ften more on the suicidal side. There are many therapies and treatments that may help the self- injurer such as medications for anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive thoughts and depression, they could be placed in a short- term structured hospital time, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Problem- solving Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Post- traumatic Stress Therapy, Group Therapy, Family Therapy or even hypnosis.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy teaches how to deal with stress and helps manage feelings. Self- injurers with Alexithymia benefit more from a clinical pproach. Dialectical Behavior therapy involves individual therapy, group skills training, art therapy, relaxation techniques, Journaling and physical exercise. Problem- solving Therapy focuses on improved social skills, sharing feelings, controlling emotions, family negotiation, identifying problems, prioritizing those problems, and establishing goals and executing a strategy to help achieve those goals. Problem- solving Therapy uses both individual and group therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy involves identifying patterns of destructive or negative behaviors nd thinking and modifying them to make them more realistic and healthier. Post- traumatic Stress Therapy is helpful for self- harmers who have a history of abuse or incest. Group Therapy helps decrease shame and support healthy emotions and the expressing of. Family therapy addresses family stress that is related to self- harm. It also helps teach them to communicate directly (non- Judgmentally) with each other. All of these therapies and techniques are good in helping self- injurers stop harming.
It has to be an individual choice as to whether or not they want help. Self- harm is often associated with physical, sexual or emotional abuse. With self- injurers pain is not commonly felt during the act of harm. Generally little harm is actually done to the body. Self- harmers often will go to great lengths to hide any physical signs that the act may have left behind. In some places self- harm is a sanctioned activity where it is socially acceptable and is done as a group. People who self- injure may do it because they are aware of others who are participating in the act or because it is a release of their pain and helps them cope.
The act of self- injury is dangerous to the harmer physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Appendix 1. Pamela Daniel, Self-harming behaviours. [Online] Available http:// galenet. galegroup. com/servlet/HWRC/hits? docNum=A281567314=1 _1 _1 =BA=ko_pl_portal h=true=KW=1 ry’=fa Desce r ase=false&searchTerm=2NTA&c=1 November 27, 2012. 2. “Self mutilation. ” Emily Jane Willingham, PhD. The Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Health. Ed. Laurie J. Fundukian and Jeffrey Wilson. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2008. 2 vols. 3. Psychology & Psychiatry Journal.
Online] Available http://galenet. Galenet. com. servlet/HWRC/hits? rc h=fa Desce nd&b uc ket=he lth ms=O &c=2&tcit=1 _1 _O_O_I _1 _&docNum=A309650948&sgPhrase=false&loclD=ko_pl_portal&s November 27, 2012 4. Ceveland Clinic, Self-Injury. [Online] Available http://my. clevelandclinic. org/disorders/self-in]ury/ November 27, 2012. 5. Alex Spiegel, Profile: Practice of self- mutilation. (1 1 AM- 12:00 Noon) (Broadcast transcript) (Audio file) [Online] Available http://http://galenet. galegroup. com/servlet/HWRC/hits? rc h=fa Ise&b uc ket=gu Desce November 27, 2012.