Why Does Someone Self-Harm?

Feb 25, 2019 | Suicide, Mental Health

Self Harm Behaviors

Self-harm can happen at any age but is most common in teenagers and young adults. Some common self-harming behaviors include:

  • Cutting
  • Burning self
  • Picking at skin
  • Pulling hair
  • Extensive piercings or tattoos
  • Branding skin
  • Breaking bones or bruising caused by hitting self or other objects (i.e. walls, cars, etc.)
  • Starving self or binging and purging.
  • Ingesting harmful chemicals.

Reasons Someone May Self-Harm

Some people self-harm very sporadically while others harm themselves in very compulsive ways. In fact, some people self-harm for years or even decades. While the individual reasons for self-harm may vary, the underlying cause is often driven by emotional pain. People who self-harm often have difficulty managing their emotions and may struggle with feelings of anger, depression, and anxiety. They often feel out of control and may feel trapped and helpless. The most common reasons that people self-harm include:

  • Unable to express anger at others – People who self-harm often turn anger inward toward themselves. For example, when someone is in an abusive situation and does not have an effective way to express their feelings without being further abused or hurt, they use self-harm to discharge their anger.
  • Angry with self – People who self-harm often “punish” themselves when they get angry. They may be mad at themselves for the way they look, act, feel, or think. They may have a lot of self-loathing and may blame themselves for things that they have no control over.
  • Unresolved trauma – People who have experienced significant sexual and physical abuse often resort to self-harm to cope with their emotional pain. Sometimes they harm particular body parts, such as the inner thighs or genital regions as a way of managing body sensations that may remain from the unresolved trauma.
  • Feel emotionally numb – Sometimes people hurt themselves so that they can feel again. This occurs when a person has become so detached from their emotions that they feel numb or “dead inside.”
  • Feel overwhelmed – Sometimes people hurt themselves because they are so overwhelmed that they don’t know what to do. They may impulsively take their frustration out on themselves, or they may hurt themselves because they felt like they “needed to just do something.”
  • Feel out of control – People frequently hurt themselves because they feel out of control and hurting themselves gives them a temporary feeling of being in control. For example, a person who is anorexic may feel like at least they can control what goes in their body even if everything else feels out of control.
  • Depression – Severe depression can lead to self-harming behaviors. This might be an indication of suicidal thoughts.
  • Anxiety – Some people manage their anxiety by hurting themselves. For example, a person who feels anxious might pick at their skin or pull their hair out.
  • Self-soothing – Some people use self-harm to soothe themselves. They may feel temporary relief from emotional pain when they create physical pain to focus on.
  • Distraction from the emotional pain – Some people use physical pain to distract themselves from their emotional pain.
  • Suicidal thoughts – Sometimes self-harm is an indication that a person is at risk for suicide.

It is important to remember that people who self-harm are in a great deal of emotional pain. They are using self-harm as a way of coping with their pain and they need help. If you or someone you know is struggling with self-harming behaviors, don’t ignore the problem. Get the help that you need.

New Dimensions Can Help!

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.

Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit www.mhthrive.com to learn more.