In general, self harm is something that most people would prefer to avoid talking about. I agree that the topic tends to be incredibly touchy and unnerving, especially for people who have never self harmed. While the subject of someone hurting themselves on purpose is an uncomfortable one it is also not well understood and misunderstandings only lead to more problems.
I think it’s important to mention that self harm is something I have struggled with through the years and still contemplate at times. One of the most common forms of self harm is cutting. Other forms of self harm can include things like burning yourself, pulling your hair, punching or hitting your head against a hard object, preventing injuries from healing properly, and any other act that inflicts physical pain purposely. Any form of self harm can be addictive and many of these behaviors can begin as young as someone’s early teens and continue into adulthood.
Reasons for self harm are often hard to pinpoint, and they vary from person to person. Generally self harm begins when someone doesn’t know how to properly express emotion or has little to no outlet to do so. People can also self harm as a form of self punishment which can be triggered by feelings of worthlessness and like they can do nothing right. Self harm could also be a cry for help and attention; a way for people to visually see that someone is hurting so they will reach out without the person having to directly ask for it. Sometimes there is an obvious trigger for self harm such as abuse, a traumatic event, or other negative situation, but it can also be provoke by general depression and a sense of hopelessness.
There is no real “cure” for self harm since it’s not any kind of disease or illness. One of the best ways to help someone who self harms is to try and figure out why they do it and work on the root of the problem. For example, if the reason someone hurts themselves is because they feel like they are worthless then working with them on why they feel that way and how they can realize just how much they are loved can be all the help they need. If the problem stems from trauma, depression, or mental illness then therapy might be a good place to start. Since self harm tends to stem from an inability to properly express strong emotions, getting a therapist to talk to and work things out with is something that got me through the time when I was hurting myself. From my experience, simply taking away the means by which the person hurts themselves won’t work, as they will only get more creative which can lead to them hurting themselves worse. By judging someone for cutting it only makes people feel like they truly are worthless and can worsen the self harm. People who hurt themselves need love and support and to hear that they are cared for.
I went through years of self harm, feeling worthless and frustrated. Some of the things that helped me to get through those times and stop harming myself were music and videogames. Music is incredibly calming and the right songs can lower heart rate and stress levels, making it easier for someone to relax. Videogames helped me because they are very engaging and often have stories that apply to current difficult situations. The ability of a game to distract from the feeling of wanting to hurt yourself is one of the main ways I was able to stop hurting myself.
Another thing that helped me as I got older was realizing that I only wanted to hurt myself when I felt overwhelmed and like the world was crushing me. By recognizing this I was able to take a step back and learned that during these times I needed to take a break and relax before I got too stressed to function.
It’s important to realize that self harm isn’t for fun or for show. Self harm is a serious issue that requires real help in order to get over. If someone is hurting themselves it’s because they are hurting on the inside. With enough help and support anyone can recover from self harm and find healthy ways to express themselves.