Self-harm, synonymous with self-injury, is a term used to refer to the non-suicidal act of deliberately and compulsively harming one’s own body. There are different ways an individual could inflict self-harm, such as breaking bones, hitting or punching, burning (with matches, cigarettes, hot objects, etc.), head banging, carving symbols into skin, piercing, picking at a wound that interferes with healing, biting, pulling out hair, and cutting. The most frequent sites of self-injury are the hands, wrists, stomach and thighs, though self-injurers may hurt themselves anywhere on the body. It is also not uncommon for people that engage in self-harming behaviors to do so in a location on their body that is not expressly visible to others.
Signs and Symptoms
Every person is unique and those that struggle with self-harm may exhibit slightly different signs and symptoms. Some of the possible examples that may indicate that an individual is engaging in self-harming behaviors could include, but are not limited to any combination of the following, provided by Delta Specialty Hospital:
- Strange scars on one’s body
- Cuts or burn marks on legs, arms, abdomen
- Hiding sharp objects (e.g., box cutters, knives, razor blades, etc.)
- Bizarre excuses for injuries
- Difficulty sleeping
- Broken bones
- Difficulty with interpersonal relationships
- Emotional instability
- Changes in eating habits
- Self-imposed social isolation
- Wearing long sleeve clothes in hot weather
Often, individual that self-harm become attached to their scars and will repeat the behaviors directly over them (e.g., cutting in the same spot). This behavior occurs as an individual self-harming regards his or her scars as a physical sign of strength, which is reinforced by inflicting, continued self-harming behaviors in the same area.
It is recommended for an individual that engages in self-mutilation and/ or self-harm to pursue professional guidance as soon as possible. Generally, the treatment protocol for individuals that engage in self-harm includes participating in a formalized treatment program. There are outpatient mental health programs that require an individual to participate in the treatment program for a certain number of hours, daily. There are also acute, inpatient mental health treatment programs that offer twenty-four-hour care and support throughout the duration of the program. In severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary.
Regardless of the format, an individual in treatment for self-injury will be provided with a customized treatment plan to accommodate his or her nuanced needs. Treatment plans are comprised of one or more therapeutic modalities, some of which may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), psychodynamic psychotherapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), expressive arts therapies, and more. Depending on one’s needs certain medications may be integrated into treatment plans as they can be helpful in decreasing uncomfortable symptoms associated with other underlying mental health issues, which in turn can reduce the urge to self-harm. Ample support and a personalized treatment plan will provide an individual with the highest potential for a successful recovery.
Further Information and Support
Navigating the challenges that arise from living with mental illness, struggling with substance abuse, and/ or addiction can not only be all consuming but are often impossible to effectively handle without proper support. If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding mental illness, substance abuse, and/ or addiction we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. Bear in mind that you do not have to be on this journey alone. At Upwell Advisors, we offer unique, customized concierge therapeutic services to provide our clients with unparalleled support throughout every step of the recovery process.
If left untreated, substance abuse, addiction, and/ or mental illness can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. Please do not hesitate to reach out for guidance. We welcome the opportunity to discuss how we might best be able to help you or your loved one in the recovery process.