It's An Addiction: Five Parallels Of Addiction And Self-Harm
Start writing a post
Health and Wellness

It's An Addiction: Five Parallels Of Addiction And Self-Harm

When people hear the word addiction, they think of drugs and alcohol. People don't seem to realize that self-mutilation can also be an addiction.

62
It's An Addiction: Five Parallels Of Addiction And Self-Harm

When people hear the word addiction they think of drugs and alcohol. According to Google, being addicted means that one is physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance; they are unable to stop using without incurring adverse effects. People don’t seem to realize that self-mutilation, also known as self-harm, can be an addiction -- a condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or action. Right there, in the definition of addiction, we see that it can be more than just a substance; it can be a thing or an addiction. Though not always as obvious, addiction to self-mutilation shares many of the same qualities of drug and alcohol addiction.

Before we look at the similarities, it’s important to know what self-mutilation is. According to the Mayo Clinic “nonsuicidal self-injury...is the act of deliberately harming the surface of your own body, such as cutting or burning”. Common forms of self-mutilation include the cutting of the skin (70-90% of self-mutilation), banging one’s head or hitting oneself repeatedly (21-44%), and burning (15-35%). In this article, I aim to explain to you all how self-mutilation fits many of the same characteristics of drug and alcohol addiction.

Emotional Triggers: According to the Mayo Clinic, “environmental factors, including...family’s beliefs and attitudes and exposure to a peer group that encourages drug use” has a tendency to influence an individual’s initial use of drugs. The same can be said of alcohol, and the same can be said of self-mutilation. I’ve read that before actually trying drugs or alcohol, a significant event -- or a series of events -- causes an emotional response. Users turn to drugs and alcohol to cope, and self-mutilation can be, and often is, used in the same way.

Self-harm typically involves a great deal of emotional build-up. We bottle up the thoughts and our feelings we have associated with stressful events. Contrary to popular belief, people who self-harm don’t wake up one morning and decide they want to take those actions. It’s a gradual build-up, and there is usually one specific event that pushes a person to inflict physical harm.

I was thirteen when I stumbled upon the self-harm method of cutting. I’d been struggling in school and there were problems at home. I’d been stressed for weeks, but I’d somehow managed to keep myself together. Then my grandmother died, and I felt like I couldn’t cope with anything anymore. My story of finding self-harm is one for another time, but my start was associated with the emotions I had at the time. And my continued use is always associated with my frustration, my stress, and my anger.

Tolerance: The National Institution on Drug Abuse explains that “when drugs...are used repeatedly over time, tolerance may develop. Tolerance occurs when the person no longer responds...in the way that person initially responded…. It takes a higher dose...to achieve the same level of response achieved initially.” Though the NIDA is referring to drugs, tolerance can occur in those who self-harm. As previously mentioned, self-harm is often used as a coping mechanism, and it is often a repeated form of coping. As the person continues to face stressful situations they may continue to rely on their prefered method of self-mutilation as a way to escape or relieve their stress. Eventually, they may feel that the frequency of their harming or their method no longer provides them with the same relief it did in the beginning.

I started small. Bent paper clips, safety pins, and push pins. Occasionally a sewing needle. After a few months, that wasn’t enough. It didn’t do anything for me; it didn’t make me feel better. So I moved on to disposable razor blades, and when that stopped working I moved to straight-edge blades from box cutters.

Dependence: Dependence can also occur in those who self-harm. The NIDA states that “dependence develops when the neurons adapt to the repeated...exposure and only function normally in the presence of the drug.” In terms of self-harm, the drug is the action of physically harming our body and the feeling that it brings. Dependence comes from the release of dopamine, which is released when we’re injured. For many, this release can be soothing. Dopamine is just like other chemicals, and it is possible for the body to become accustomed to its release; it’s possible to continuously develop a higher tolerance. Those who self-harm may find that they need a higher degree of pain in order to receive the same initial soothing feeling from dopamine. They may also begin to feel that self-harm is the only way to avoid stress and anxiety.

For the longest time -- more than five years -- I felt that the only way I could get through a stressful day was to pull out my blade. No other coping mechanisms that I knew of could make me feel as relaxed. I started caring my blade with me everywhere and would run to the bathroom as soon as I felt my anxiety start to rise.

Denial: Not all addictions involve denial, but it is possible. People who self-harm may deny having a problem for a variety of reasons depending on their circumstances -- they may not want to look weak or unable to handle the situations they’re facing; some don’t want to admit to an addiction because they’re afraid of losing their primary source of stress release. And finally, some might deny having an addiction because they don’t want to be helped or they don’t believe that they have a problem.


Withdrawal: Withdraw is the unpleasant physical reaction that comes with stopping an addictive drug. When those who self-harm try to cease their actions, they often find that they have cravings. They feel tingles or pain in the areas where they typically harm. They miss their method of coping, and sometimes they feel physically ill from trying to stop -- sweats, stomach trouble, migraines, fever, vomiting -- much like those suffering withdrawal from drugs or alcohol.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Student Life

Waitlisted for a College Class? Here's What to Do!

Dealing with the inevitable realities of college life.

49314
college students waiting in a long line in the hallway
StableDiffusion

Course registration at college can be a big hassle and is almost never talked about. Classes you want to take fill up before you get a chance to register. You might change your mind about a class you want to take and must struggle to find another class to fit in the same time period. You also have to make sure no classes clash by time. Like I said, it's a big hassle.

This semester, I was waitlisted for two classes. Most people in this situation, especially first years, freak out because they don't know what to do. Here is what you should do when this happens.

Keep Reading...Show less
a man and a woman sitting on the beach in front of the sunset

Whether you met your new love interest online, through mutual friends, or another way entirely, you'll definitely want to know what you're getting into. I mean, really, what's the point in entering a relationship with someone if you don't know whether or not you're compatible on a very basic level?

Consider these 21 questions to ask in the talking stage when getting to know that new guy or girl you just started talking to:

Keep Reading...Show less
Lifestyle

Challah vs. Easter Bread: A Delicious Dilemma

Is there really such a difference in Challah bread or Easter Bread?

31386
loaves of challah and easter bread stacked up aside each other, an abundance of food in baskets
StableDiffusion

Ever since I could remember, it was a treat to receive Easter Bread made by my grandmother. We would only have it once a year and the wait was excruciating. Now that my grandmother has gotten older, she has stopped baking a lot of her recipes that require a lot of hand usage--her traditional Italian baking means no machines. So for the past few years, I have missed enjoying my Easter Bread.

Keep Reading...Show less
Adulting

Unlocking Lake People's Secrets: 15 Must-Knows!

There's no other place you'd rather be in the summer.

955061
Group of joyful friends sitting in a boat
Haley Harvey

The people that spend their summers at the lake are a unique group of people.

Whether you grew up going to the lake, have only recently started going, or have only been once or twice, you know it takes a certain kind of person to be a lake person. To the long-time lake people, the lake holds a special place in your heart, no matter how dirty the water may look.

Keep Reading...Show less
Student Life

Top 10 Reasons My School Rocks!

Why I Chose a Small School Over a Big University.

180310
man in black long sleeve shirt and black pants walking on white concrete pathway

I was asked so many times why I wanted to go to a small school when a big university is so much better. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure a big university is great but I absolutely love going to a small school. I know that I miss out on big sporting events and having people actually know where it is. I can't even count how many times I've been asked where it is and I know they won't know so I just say "somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin." But, I get to know most people at my school and I know my professors very well. Not to mention, being able to walk to the other side of campus in 5 minutes at a casual walking pace. I am so happy I made the decision to go to school where I did. I love my school and these are just a few reasons why.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments