Throughout the United States, millions of teens and young adults engage in acts of non-suicidal self-harm. The act of self-harming does not usually have a single cause. Instead, it is a maladaptive coping with overwhelming emotional pain, anger, frustration, or sadness. Self-harm is usually a symptom of an underlying mental health disorder and is commonly associated with eating disorders, dissociative disorders, borderline personality disorder, and depression. If you or a loved one is practicing self-harm, help is available through Harmony Hills’ self-harm treatment program. For more information, contact us at 855.494.0357.
Who Is Most at Risk for Engaging in Self-Harm?
Unfortunately, children and adolescents who are experiencing depression are the most likely to practice self-harm. Young people often do not have the tools to manage complex emotions in healthy ways and can turn to self-harm practices to feel a temporary sense of relief. The relief is only temporary because the underlying issues remain. Following self-harm, individuals usually experience feelings of grief and shame, which contribute to their emotional suffering. All of this quickly develops into a harmful cycle that feeds on itself.
Adolescence is a difficult time fraught with emotional ups and downs. Young people suffering from clinical depression may not understand the seriousness of what they are experiencing and may not reach out for help. Besides depression, other risk factors for self-harm can include:
- Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
- Unsupportive or unstable home environments
- Issues with sexual identity
- Other unaddressed mental health disorders
Research indicates that adolescents who have a friend who engages in self-harm are at higher risk of engaging in the practice. For those who identify as women, cutting is the most common form of self-harm, whereas those who identify as men are more likely to bruise themselves or attempt to get others to hurt them. Those who self-harm are also more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Being intoxicated or high while performing acts of self-harm greatly increases the potential for unintentionally causing severe injury.
Warning Signs and Symptoms of Self-Harm
Being aware of what to look out for will help you determine if someone needs help as soon and quickly as possible. Some indicators of self-harm include:
- Sudden mood and behavior changes
- Becoming withdrawn or isolated
- Loss of interest in activities
- New or worsening substance abuse
- Lack of self-care or hygiene causing changes to appearance
- Depression, chronic sadness, and/or crying
- Signs of self-harm like cuts, bruises, or burns
- Sharp or otherwise hazardous items stashed in bedroom, purse, etc
- Increasingly risky actions or behaviors
- Giving their belongings away or throwing things out
- Openly talking about negative thoughts and feelings
- Openly talking about death or suicide
- Threatening suicide
Self-harm is usually a symptom of a mental health disorder. It can be very scary to have to face something like this with a loved one, but help is available. It starts with understanding the root cause of self-injurious behavior.
The Link Between Depression and Self-Harm
Major depression is often characterized by irritability, feelings of worthlessness, anger, an inability to feel pleasure, and a lack of emotional depth. These are all symptoms that can drive a vulnerable person to engage in self-harm. Intense feelings of anger and pain often precipitate the urge to self-harm. The inflicted pain releases endorphins that provide temporary relief from these feelings. In some cases, focusing on the physical pain of the injury is what alleviates the emotional pain. When depression causes anhedonia, the inability to feel pleasure, self-harm is used to feel something other than numbness.
When individuals suffer from depression or other mental health conditions, their ability to express themselves is compromised by their inability to understand their thoughts and feelings. They may resort to self-harm for any of the following reasons:
- As punishment for perceived faults
- As a release from emotional distress
- To find relief from anxiety
- A distraction from inner turmoil
- To communicate their pain to the outside world
- To feel control over their body, their feelings, or an external situation
At Harmony Hills, we provide a wide range of mental health treatment programs to effectively treat the underlying mental health conditions that cause self-injurious behaviors.
Learn More About How Harmony Hills Treats Depression and Self-Harm
If you or a loved one engages in self-harm as the result of depression or another mental health condition, Harmony Hills is an excellent choice for getting the treatment to help heal. Our treatment team will take the time to get to know you and help identify your individual treatment needs. We offer various holistic and evidence-based therapies designed to help you overcome maladaptive thinking and behavior patterns and ensure long-term recovery.
When you choose Harmony Hills for our self-harm treatment program or depression treatment program, some of the therapies available to you include:
- Trauma therapy
- EMDR therapy
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Dialectical therapy
- Individual therapy program