Self-harm, also referred to as self-injury or self-mutilation, is a dangerous symptom of untreated mental health disorders. While acts of self-harm carry the potential of causing significant or permanent damage, they are not suicidal. For most, self-harm is a maladaptive way of coping with severe stress or emotional anguish. For others, engaging in self-harm is an attempt to feel something because they otherwise feel emotionally disconnected or numb. Overall, people self-harm when they do not have the tools to release or express intense feelings in healthy ways.
Self-harm is primarily associated with adolescence. However, many people continue to self-harm into early adulthood. Older adults who self-harm typically do so after experiencing trauma or other significant events that challenge their coping ability. A self-harm treatment program in Florida at Harmony Hills can help stabilize acute symptoms and address the underlying issues that contribute to self-harm, helping you live a happier and healthier life. Contact us at 855.494.0357 to learn more about self-harm treatment options.
How to Help Someone Who Self-Harms
Whether they reveal it to you or find out it on your own, discovering that someone you love is engaging in self-harm can be scary, upsetting, and hard to understand. While your instinct may be to react with shock, horror, or anger, it is best to remain nonjudgmental and not over-react. At the same time, it is vital to take self-harm seriously and not disregard the behavior.
The first step in talking to someone about their self-harming behaviors is to ensure that it is a good time for you. Make sure you have had time to process the information and educate yourself about self-harm and that your loved one is not stressed or upset. When you have found the best time and setting, some suggestions for what to say include:
- “I have noticed some marks (bruises, cuts, burns) on your arms (legs), and I am concerned because I care about you. Are you hurting yourself?”
- “I can see that you are in a lot of pain. Can you talk to me about what is going on?”
- “What gives you the urge to self-harm, and how long do you feel relief?”
- Can you talk about how you feel before and after you self-harm?
- “I want to help you, but I can’t do it alone. Have you thought about talking to someone?”
- “I understand if you can’t talk about it now. Just know that I am here to help support you.”
Try to validate their pain without validating the self-harming behavior. Listen until they are done talking, and do not interrupt to offer advice or try to relate their pain to your own experiences. Do not worry about having the right answers. Often just listening and offering support can help.
How to Stop Someone Who is Cutting
Self-harm takes on many forms, including burning, picking at wounds, headbanging, pulling out hair, biting, or any other deliberate action to cause physical pain. However, cutting is the most common form of self-harm. Most people cut on their arms, legs, and stomach, where clothing can easily hide wounds. If you suspect someone in your life is cutting, it is critical to remember that you are dealing with someone who is struggling with significant psychological and emotional pain. The best thing you can do for them is to be supportive and help them find the appropriate level of professional treatment.
Consider these suggestions for helping a loved one if you suspect or know they are cutting:
- Acknowledge their emotions and express sympathy
- Focus on trying to understand the triggers that precede self-harm, not the act itself
- Do not ridicule their actions or dismiss their thoughts and feelings
- Help create a list of people they can call when they feel like cutting
- Identify other activities to engage in when the urge to cut arises
- Be genuinely interested in understanding why they self-harm and how they believe it helps them
Remember that self-harm is not a diagnosis itself but rather a symptom of an underlying mental health disorder. Self-harm is complex, and recovery can be a long process for everyone involved. Some of the reasons people self-harm include avoiding painful memories, breakthrough emotional numbness, gaining a sense of control, and coping with challenging emotions.
Contact Harmony Hills for Self-Harm Treatment
Harmony Hills offers comprehensive, individualized treatment for self-harm. Our team of clinical professionals will help your loved one uncover and treat the underlying mental health issues that trigger self-harm behaviors and learn healthy coping skills. Contact us at 855.494.0357 to learn more about our self-harm treatment program in Florida.