Self-harm can be a way to solve problems. It helps to express feelings that are difficult to describe, to distance oneself from one’s life and free up emotional pain. After physical pain, the person feels better – at least for a while. But then the heartache and the desire to hurt yourself physically return. In this fight, the main thing to remember is that you always deserve the best.
- What should I know about self-harm?
- Myths and facts about self-harm
- Signs and indicators of self-harm
- Why does self-harm help in some way?
- Why self-harm is dangerous
- Alternatives to self-harm
- How to support someone who self harms?
Self-harm is a way to express emotions and cope with severe stress. This sounds unnatural, but pain can really bring relief. A person feels that he has no choice, and the infliction of pain may seem the only way to cope with sadness, self-hatred, emptiness, guilt and anger.
The problem is that the relief from self-harm is short-term. It is like a patch on a wound that needs to be sewn up urgently: it can stop the bleeding, but not heal the wounds. In addition, self-harm creates its own problems.
If you like self-harm, perhaps you are trying to hide it. Perhaps you feel guilty or think that no one will understand you. But hiding your gist is extra pressure. Secrets and guilt affect family relationships and distort self-perception. This secret inevitably isolates a person from others.
The theme of self-harm is taboo and there are many myths around it. Do not let these misconceptions prevent you from receiving or giving help.
Myth: people who self-harm are trying to attract attention.
Fact: As a rule, people do not advertise the fact of self-harm and, moreover, do not try to manipulate others. On the contrary, shame and fear make it difficult to ask for help.
Myth: people who self-harm are dangerous
Fact: Many people engaged in self-harm suffer from depression, anxiety disorder, irritation thoughts or the effects of trauma, but this does not make them dangerous. Self-harm is a way to cope with pain. Stigmatization and labeling only exacerbate the situation.
Myth: Self-harm is a sign that a person wants to die.
Fact: People who self-harm usually don’t want to die. This is not a suicide attempt, but a way to cope with stress. However, of course, in the long run, these people are at risk, and that is why it is important to provide assistance in a timely manner.
Myth: Small wounds are not scary.
Fact: The depth of the inflicted wounds is in no way connected with the strength and intensity of the experience. Minor damage is still a significant concern.
Self-harm is any intentional harm to yourself, including:
- cuts and deep scratches;
- hitting (for themselves and objects);
- gluing things to the skin;
- conscious slowing of wound healing;
- intake of toxic substances;
- overeating and malnutrition;
- hair pulling;
Less obvious ways to harm yourself are also in this list: binge drinking, dangerous driving, etc.
Warning signs close people should pay attention to
Self-farm is hard to track down because physical wounds are easy to hide with clothes, and anxiety is behind a smile. However, there are clear signs of concern:
- wounds and scars of unknown origin;
- blood on clothing;
- sharp-cutting objects in personal belongings;
- regular “accidents”, written off on clumsiness;
- detachment and irritability.
It is important to admit that self-harm really helps – otherwise, no one would do it. How exactly?
- This allows you to express emotions and slightly ease internal pressure;
- Allows you to feel the control, get rid of guilt, or vice versa to punish yourself for mistakes;
- Distracts from irrational emotions or difficult life situations;
- Allows you to feel at least something and removes this endless painful dumbness.
In simple words: It helps to release that emotional pain that one cannot express in words. It is like an exclamation mark for an endless inner monologue.
This is a way to control your body. A person feels relief from every cut. Anxiety recedes. Emotional pain gradually flows into the physical. It is very important to understand the causes of self-harm in order to help yourself or your close person in a timely manner.
One always has to pay for the relief that brings self-harm. In the long run, this behavior creates enormous problems, so the relief provided is not worth it:
- Relief is short-term and soon gives way to shame and guilt. In addition, the self-harm postpones the search for more effective strategies;
- Hiding self-harm is difficult. Any secrets are alienated from others, which can adversely affect relations with relatives;
- Heavy damage may be inflicted even without the intent to do so. The depth of the cut and the effects of infection can be underestimated;
- Self-harm is a signal that you are at risk. If you are not looking for other ways to deal with emotional pain, the risk of developing depression and other addictions increases;
- Self-harm is addictive. Initially, it can be impulsive, but the deceptive sense of control leads to the fact that the self-harm develops into compulsive behavior (automatic, relieving the alarm), which is more difficult to stop.
In short, self-harm does not help you solve the problems that cause this behavior. Sirius Project knows many other more effective ways.
Tip 1: Find a person you can open up.
If you are ready to get help and stop self-harm, you should first open to another person. It’s scary to talk about hiding for so long, but sharing your pain with someone can be a huge relief.
Finding such a person can be difficult. Choose someone who will not gossip or try to control your treatment process. Ask yourself who you get the most and unconditional support from. It can be a relative, a friend, a teacher — anyone who accepts you and will not blame. The proximity of communication does not matter.
Later, you may want to open up to close friends, family. But sometimes it’s easier to tell a person who is at some distance from the situation.
How to talk about self-harm?
- Focus on your emotions. Instead of details on how you do it, concentrate on your emotions and situations that provoke a desire to cause yourself physical pain. This will help the person better understand the sources of your pain. It also allows you to understand the trustee, why you decided to open up to him. Do you need help or advice? You just don’t want to hide anymore?
- Tell about it in the form that is convenient for you. If personal conversation face to face is disturbing, think about starting a conversation online or in the form of a letter – but talking in real life is also very important! If you are not ready to talk about any details, it is not necessary. You are not obliged to show wounds and answer uncomfortable or unpleasant questions;
- Give a person time for reflection. Do not forget this is also quite difficult for the person whom you told your secret. Sometimes you may not like the response. Remember that neither shock, nor anger, nor the fear of another person should not scare you. Perhaps you should show him/her this article before the conversation – the better a person understands the nature of self-harm, the more chances you get support.
Talking about self-harm is extremely emotional and can cause additional stress. Do not lose hope if after a conversation you feel worse for a short time. Changing habits is very unpleasant, but as soon as you overcome these initial obstacles, you will feel better.
Tip 2. Look for reasons.
Awareness of why you do this is the first step to recovery. By understanding the basic function of hurting yourself, you can find a safer and less destructive way to satisfy these self-provoking needs.
- Define triggers. Self-harm is usually a reaction to emotional pain. What kind of feelings provoke you? Sad Anger? Shame? Loneliness? Guilt? Feeling empty? Awareness helps to find healthier alternatives to self-harm;
- Do not live apart from emotions. If you find it difficult to determine what exactly is a trigger, you may want to work on the connection of mind and emotions. Emotional awareness is the ability to identify an emotion and its cause, the ability to identify, express emotion and understand the relationship between feeling and events, actions. Emotions are an important signal coming from the body, but it does not have to spill over into self-harms. The idea of paying attention to your emotions, instead of drowning or seeking destructive ways to get rid of them, sounds frightening. But the point is that emotions are fleeting if you let them go away on their own and not get hung up on the situation. There is no need to fight with them, condemn, scold yourself because of feelings. Emotions very quickly replace each other, and only obsession holds them.
Tip 3. Find techniques that will help to cope with the situation in another way.
Self-harm is a way to cope with emotions and survive difficult situations. So, if you decide to stop, you need to look for new ways and techniques.
If you try to cope with pain and strong emotions through self-harm:
- Draw on a large sheet of paper in red ink or paint;
- Keep a diary of emotions;
- Compose a song or verse about your emotions;
- Write bad thoughts on paper and tear sheets;
- Listen to music that reflects your emotions
To calm down and relieve a sharp pain:
- Take a bath or hot shower, hug a pet, wrap yourself in a blanket – physical comfort is crucial;
- Massage your neck, palms, feet;
- Listen to calm music
If you feel the emptiness and isolation from the world:
- Talk to a friend (about anything);
- Take a cold shower;
- Apply a piece of ice wrapped in a cloth to your hand or foot;
- Eat something with a sharp taste – taste like mint or grapefruit;
- Go to sirius-project.org for help
To relieve stress and release anger:
- An exhausting cardiovascular activity – running, dancing, skipping rope, boxing;
- Beat a pillow/mattress or shout into the pillow;
- Try stress relief balls;
- Tear something up;
- Make a noise: play an instrument, knock a ladle on a pot – everything will do.
- Professional help is extremely important.
Think seriously about going to the therapist. It will help to find more individual methods and determine the causes of self-harm more accurately. Remember that self-harm does not exist in isolation from real life. This is an outward expression of inner pain that may have deep-seated causes. Self-harm can be the result of unprocessed emotions related to violence, flashbacks, hatred of your body, or other traumatic memories. You may not even see the connection between these events, but it is. You may get professional help from Sirius. Visit the website’s main page for more details. In some cases, you may need to take antidepressants. Sirius can even offer discounted drugs online from My Canadian Pharmacy.
How to find a specialist?
Finding the right specialist may take some time. It is very important to find a doctor with a specialization on self-harm and injury. But at the same time, the very relationship between the doctor and the patient is also extremely important – trust your intuition. If you do not feel safe, do not feel respect or understanding, then immediately look for another specialist.
Confidence must be established between the patient and the physician: the therapist accepts the self-harm without conviction and should not pressure regarding the period of recovery. Even the most intimate questions should be easily discussed with him.
Sirius Project — проект that helps to cope with mental health disorders, including irritating thoughts, self-damaging behavior, and chronic suicidality. The project is also aimed to help people learn DBT skills and learn how to stop dissociating. They’ve made a list of tips of how to help a friend who self harms.
Find a way to cope with your own emotions.
Perhaps the news of self-harm from a loved one will cause shock, embarrassment, or even disgust, and this, in turn, provokes a sense of guilt. Recognizing your own feelings in front of you is the first step to helping your loved one.
Learn about the problem better.
The best way to overcome disgust is to find out more. Understanding the causes of behavior will help to see the world through the eyes of a loved one.
Do not judge.
Refrain from criticism – it will only aggravate the situation. The first two points will help to cope with this task. Remember that a person practicing self-harm experiences terrible loneliness.
Offer support, not ultimatums.
The desire to help is very natural, but threats, punishments and ultimatums will not bring help. Express your concern and let the person know that you are always ready to help whenever he or she is ready to talk.
Encourage the desire to talk about his/her problems.
Encourage others to express his/her feelings, even if it is uncomfortable. If a person has not yet spoken about self-harm, take an interest carefully: “I have noticed wounds and want to understand what you are going through, what you are experiencing.” If the person who self-harms is your relative, be prepared to discuss family issues. This is not a reason to exchange accusations, but a way to improve family relations and find a more effective form of communication.
What to do if a friend does not talk about problems and refuses to accept help?
In general, it is difficult to help a person in such a state – some people are simply not ready yet, and there is no one’s fault. Everyone reacts to the proposed assistance in different ways, but it is not a reason to be afraid to at least try. Sometimes just sincere concern is enough. Attempting to bring a friend to contact and sincere conversation is the first step towards treatment.
Sometimes attempts to help provoke anger and accusations that you are not able to understand the pain of others. Or a friend is just not ready. In such situations, the feeling of helplessness, anxiety and sadness are natural. But do not put the entire burden of responsibility on yourself and do not let the situation take you out of emotional balance.