*Trigger Warning: This post may be potentially triggering for some readers.*
Self-Injury refers to a set of behaviors that involve a person intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflect physical harm on himself or herself. This includes but is not limited to “cutting”. Other behaviors that fall into this category are scratching, biting, and burning oneself.
Some people who have never engaged in or had the desire to engage in self-injury find this type of behavior baffling, and have great difficulty understanding why someone would self-injure. Although everyone who self-injures has their own specific reasons, some of the reasons people struggling with this give include the following: trying to cope with stress or strong emotions, feeling emotionally numb and wanting to feel something, trying to make emotional pain physical, trying to punish their self, a cry for help.
The relationship between self-injury and suicide is a complex one. It should be noted that many who engage in self-injury are not trying to kill their self. However, it is not uncommon for those who engage in self-injury without suicidal intent to also be struggling with suicidal thoughts.
What can be done to reduce or eliminate self-injurious behavior? If someone shares with you that they self-injure, it was likely hard for them to tell you. Try to listen without freaking out and without accusations. Let them know that you are concerned and that you care about them. Those who struggle with self-injury in addition to needing support from loved ones and mental health professionals can also benefit from engaging in replacement behaviors including drawing on the spot they want to injure with a red marker, holding ice, sticking hand or finger in ice cream, running cold water on the area want to harm.
Self-Injury is a difficult issue to deal with but with support and hard work from the person struggling, it can get better. Just remember, recovery is not always linear and that’s ok.
*Note:The information contained in this post is based off of personal and professional experiences along with information provided in the Crisis Text line Crisis Counselor training.*