Self injury is the deliberate infliction of damage to your own body, and includes cutting, burning, and other forms of injury. While cutting can look like attempted suicide, it's not; most people who mutilate themselves do it as a way to regulate mood. People who hurt themselves in this way may be motivated by a need to distract themselves from inner turmoil, or to quickly release anxiety that builds due to an inability to express intense emotions. Self injury can also include less obvious ways of hurting yourself or putting yourself in danger, such as driving recklessly, binge drinking, taking too many drugs, and having unsafe sex.
Because clothing can hide physical injuries, and inner turmoil can be covered up by a seemingly calm disposition, self-injury can be hard to detect. However, there are red flags you can look for (but remember—you don’t have to be sure that you know what’s going on in order to reach out to someone you’re worried about):
- Unexplained wounds or scars from cuts, bruises, or burns, usually on the wrists, arms, thighs, or chest.
- Blood stains on clothing, towels, or bedding; blood-soaked tissues.
- Sharp objects or cutting instruments, such as razors, knives, needles, glass shards, or bottle caps, in the person’s belongings.
- Frequent “accidents.” Someone who self-harms may claim to be clumsy or have many mishaps, in order to explain away injuries.
- Covering up. A person who self-injures may insist on wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather.
- Needing to be alone for long periods of time, especially in the bedroom or bathroom.
- Isolation and irritability.
- Although self-harm and cutting can give you temporary relief, it comes at a cost. In the long term, it causes far more problems than it solves.
- The relief is short lived, and is quickly followed by other feelings like shame and guilt. Meanwhile, it keeps you from learning more effective strategies for feeling better.
- Keeping the secret from friends and family members is difficult and lonely.
- You can hurt yourself badly, even if you don’t mean to. It’s easy to misjudge the depth of a cut or end up with an infected wound.
- If you don’t learn other ways to deal with emotional pain, it puts you at risk for bigger problems down the line, including major depression, drug and alcohol addiction, and suicide.
- Self-harm can become addictive. It may start off as an impulse or something you do to feel more in control, but soon it feels like the cutting or self-harming is controlling you. It often turns into a compulsive behavior that seems impossible to stop.
The bottom line: self-harm and cutting don’t help you with the issues that made you want to hurt yourself in the first place.
The Psychologists at J Hart & Associates are here to help you find a better way to solve your problems. They can help you become better able to focus on your feelings and communicate them in a more productive fashion. Additionally, as you begin to better get in touch with difficult feelings, we can help you find new coping tools to assist you to better manage your stress and emotions. J Hart & Associates provides group therapy counseling for self injurers as a means to encourage personal growth and learn new coping strategies. In these very private groups, open communication, compassion and non-judgment are always ensured.
Because self injury is frequently related to Borderline Personality Disorder, the Psychologists at J Hart & Associates are uniquely qualified to treat BPD. Using a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Techniques, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and Sensori Motor Psychotherapy, we are pleased to offer conjoint therapy for those with BPD. This provides low cost, additional support and monitoring for those clients in need of multiple visits per week. And, more importantly, conjoint therapy has been proven to be the most effective treatment for BPD by recent UCLA outcome studies.