Self-harm is a common form of coping for a lot of people. But it’s a hard thing to understand if you haven’t been through it yourself, which is why there are a lot of misconceptions about it and how to help someone going through it. In this blog, we will explain a little bit about self-harm and it’s misconceptions.
Many people believe that only women self-harm — this is not the case, however. In fact, every year, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men self-harm. Women only make up 60% of those who self-harm, meaning almost half of the people who self-harm are men.
Another common belief about self-harm is that only teens engage in this type of behavior. And while 90% of people who self-harm started in their pre-teen or teen years, 50% of people continue this behavior into their early adulthood.
Another important fact to note is that self-harm isn’t goth or emo behavior. There is no set personality-type that engages in self-harm. In fact, 2 million cases of self-harm are reported in the U.S. each year.
People who self-harm do it for a reason, and that reason is to help them cope with the feelings of hopelessness that depression can cause. Self-harm is not about enjoying pain. People commonly engage in self-harm to distract from overwhelming emotions, to feel something physical, to develop a sense of control, or to self-punish.
It is important to note that people do not self-harm to be manipulative or to get attention. In fact, many people who self-harm hide it from others.
Perhaps the most well-known form of self-harm is cutting; however, that is not the only way people self-harm. Some other common forms of self-harm include:
There are many more types of self-harm that people engage in, and they may be hard to recognize right away, which is why it’s important to be aware of the warning signs.
While many people who self-harm hide it, there are still warning signs you can pick up on. For example, you will probably see markings such as scars, fresh cuts, burns, scratches, or bruises. Many people who self-harm also try to hide those by wearing long sleeves or pants, even when it’s hot.
Some other warning signs of self-harm include difficulties with interpersonal relationships, persistent questions about their personal identity, behavioral and emotional instability, impulsiveness, unpredictability, or feeling helpless, hopeless, or worthless.
It is important to respond a certain way to self-harm because there is a risk that the person will respond poorly. For example, they could distance themselves from you or have another relapse.
Important things to remember when responding to someone who self-harms is to stay calm and caring. Getting angry or panicking will only push the person away. Do not show shock or revulsion at what they’ve done. Instead, listen with compassion.
When someone self-harms, it is important to know that they are engaging in the behavior to cope with difficulties or emotional pain they’re going through. Another good response would be to encourage them to seek help from a mental health professional.
Remember, self-harm is an addicting behavior. It is important not to be upset with someone who is self-harming, even if they told you they won’t do it again. Self-harm is not something one can just stop or outgrow. It’s a coping mechanism, even if it’s a poor one.
Trying to help a loved one who self-harms can be tricky. For example, instead of trying to use threats to get them to stop, or telling them to just stop, give them alternatives to self-harm that they could try to use to cope instead.
People who self-harm aren’t always ready to talk about it. If you see someone with scars, do not pressure them into talking about it. Some people who self-harm are embarrassed or feel guilty about the behavior they engage in.
Self-harm does not always mean the person is suicidal. Another reason people self-harm is to stop themselves from doing something worse, such as attempting to end their life. However, if you believe the person is in danger, you should call someone you trust or try to get help for them.
Self-harm is a coping mechanism — it’s just not a positive one. There are many more, healthier ways to cope with whatever it is you or a loved one may be going through.
If you or someone you love is engaging in self-harm, know that you are not alone and you have options. Contact us at Serenity Mental Health Centers to schedule an appointment with one of our amazing psychiatrists.