Self harm, also referred to as “cutting” or self-mutilation, involves a person using various objects in which to cause harm to him or herself. The idea is that by causing physical pain, the emotional pain that the person is experiencing seems to be relieved. In people who cut, inflicting pain and injury to themselves actually releases endorphins in the brain, the same way it occurs when a person sustains an injury. However, cutters attain a certain “high” from the act itself, and they feel little to no pain as a result. Self harm can become somewhat of an addiction to some people, as it is their only means of “escaping” emotional pain. If your son or daughter engages in self harm behavior or is searching online for how to self harm, then you are undoubtedly very concerned, and you have the right to be. Since young people participate in self-injurious acts when they are experiencing overwhelming amounts of emotional pain, there are always precipitating factors.
Psychiatric Diagnoses Associated with Self Harming
Although anyone who experiences ongoing emotional pain might learn how to self harm as a means to lessen the emotional pain, there are certain psychiatric conditions that are more likely to be associated with self harming behavior. These diagnoses are:
- Borderline Personality Disorder – a mental health disorder in which a person experiences sometimes lifelong episodes of extreme, overwhelming and turbulent emotions. These emotions result in impulsive and potentially dangerous behavior, which can include promiscuity, shoplifting, and other types of risk-taking behavior.
- Major depressive disorder – severe clinical depression that recurs and causes a person to experience immense feelings of despondency, which results in isolation, suicidal thoughts and loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed.
- Eating disorders – anorexia, bulimia, and even compulsive overeating. Anorexia is characterized by an obsession with food and attaining a thin body. This causes a person to feel the need to starve in order to keep his or her weight under control. Other weight loss rituals include excessive exercise, and the overuse of laxatives.
- Bulimia– occurs in conjunction with anorexia, and sometimes alone, and individuals with bulimia experience cycles of binging and purging. This is their means to prevent weight gain.
- Compulsive overeating– in a condition in which a person regularly binges on high-fat, high-carb and high calorie foods in response to his or her emotions. While most emotional overeaters binge as a result of negative feelings and emotions, the emotions precipitating a binge aren’t necessarily negative, as a binge eater could overeat in order to “celebrate” good news.
How to Help Someone Who Self Harms
If you are the parent of a child who self harms, then your first reaction may be to panic and yell and scream. This is, however, not the best reaction, as it could possibly make your teen want to go off by him or herself and self harm even more. It is best to remain calm and sit down with the person to ask questions. Find out how long he or she has been self harming and why he or she does it. Gently suggest that a professional counselor might be able to help and verbalize the fact that you will remain supportive and help your teen through their difficult time in any way possible. It might be helpful for you to find out as much as you can about self harming so you can help your troubled teen in the most effective way possible.
If you happen to walk in on your son or daughter cutting or otherwise injuring him or herself, then you may wonder how to stop self harm. You could try talking, but if your adolescent is too upset at the time then he behavior could continue. If you’re afraid that your son or daughter might seriously injure him or herself, then you could always call for emergency medical treatment. Your teenager’s wounds will be treated, and he or she will receive a psychiatric evaluation, as well. The professional conducting the evaluation will determine if your son or daughter requires inpatient psychiatric treatment. You can also opt to sign him or her into a residential treatment program. This is usually a long-term program that will help your son or daughter with managing their emotions in a positive manner as well as learning alternative coping skills.
How to Not Self Harm
If you are attempting to help your teen to refrain from self harming, then this might be very challenging. Your teen is very likely going to self harm while alone in his or her bedroom. Whenever he or she experiences a high amount of emotional pain, he or she will retreat to privacy. There is no way to determine how he or she learned how to self harm with a razor. He or she could have learned from school or even online. But causing injury to oneself in order to relieve emotional pain is not only potentially dangerous, but it is not accepted in today’s society. If you are curious about how many people self harm, according to Mental Health America, more than two million individuals perform self injurious acts on a regular basis. A majority of self harmers are teenagers and young adults, and women self harm more often than men.
How to Stop Self Harming
There are many negative consequences to self harming. First of all, while self harming, it is very possible to cut too deep and ending up causing serious injuries unintentionally. Most self harmers are not attempting to commit suicide by cutting, although it is very easy to get carried away and it might end up becoming fatal. This is why it is extremely important that your teen stop self harming. Here are some methods for stopping self harming behavior:
So, if you discover that your teen is self harming, your first instinct might be to panic. However, if you force yourself to remain calm, then you can help your teen through a very tough time in his or her life by being comforting, supportive, and getting them the help that they may require.
- Start journaling. Encourage your teen to write down his or her thoughts, which can be a good way of self-expression. It can suppress the desire to self harm.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy with a good therapist can be a great way to help your child get to the root cause of his or her emotions. If your teenager is showing signs of borderline personality disorder, then the therapist can assist him or her with dealing with the intensified emotions in a positive manner, which will hopefully prevent future self harm episodes.
- Distraction is a great way to refrain from self harm behavior. If your teen gets the urge to self harm, then he or she should attempt to participate in an enjoyable activity. This could be anything that he or she enjoys, such as play a video game, dance, cook, etc. Distraction will not permanently stop self harm urges from occurring, but if your teen habitually distracts him or herself with other, more positive activities, then he or she can eventually re-learn how to deal with intense emotional pain without causing injury to him or herself.
How to Get Rid of Self Harm Scars
Self harm scars can become permanent, even after a single episode of self-mutilation. Once your teen has conquered his or her issues and stopped self harming, then he or she may be wondering about getting rid of the self harm scars. Not only can scars be a constant reminder of a past of cutting, but others will be curious and ask about the scars.
One method is simply self-acceptance. It may be difficult to deal with stares and questions from others if it’s impossible to hide the scars from prior days of self harming. One thing for a former self harmer to keep in mind is that it takes a strong person to overcome self harm, so each time someone asks about the scars, no matter how large or how hideous, the former self harmer should feel proud to have made such an accomplishment.
Another method is to use one of many scar and burn fading creams and/or ointments. There is no guarantee that these products work, but with some research, an acceptable product should be able to be found.
If your teen wants the scars completely gone, then the absolute last resort is surgery. In most cases, insurance will not pay to have self-inflicted scars surgically removed. It will have to be an out-of-pocket procedure and prices will vary depending on the size and number of the scars as well as he plastic surgeon that is chosen.