People go to great lengths to protect themselves from pain and injury. But some people hurt themselves on purpose to help them deal with bad feelings or thoughts. This is called self-harm. People who self-harm don’t do it to end their life—instead, self-harm may be the best way they know to survive.
Self-harm means that you hurt yourself on purpose, but you don’t intend to die as a result. In many cases, it isn’t a sign that someone has a mental illness, instead, self-harm is usually a way to deal with difficult feelings or show distress.
When you self-harm, you cause some kind of damage to your body. The most common ways to do this are cutting or burning the skin, scratching that breaks the skin, hitting to the point of bruising or breaking bones, biting or falling. Some people also take a minor overdose of a substance (for example, they take more than the recommended dose, but not a lethal dose, of an over-the-counter medication) to harm themselves. Acts of self-harm are sometimes done on impulse, and sometimes they’re planned. Certain people who self-harm say that don’t feel pain when they hurt themselves, or that they do it to feel physical pain.
Individuals who self-harm do so to deal with uncomfortable or unwanted feelings like anxiety or depression, to cope with grief, loss, violence or chronic illness, to punish themselves or to express self-hatred or self-anger, or feelings of failure, to make their emotional pain feel like physical pain, to feel “real”, feel anything or to cope with feelings of emptiness or numbness, to regain control over their body or to feel better. If you or someone you know is engaging in self-harm please seek medical and professional help immediately and contact one of our therapists at Evölve to assist in the treatment and learn healthier coping strategies.