Just like every other stereotype, while this image may apply to some who engage in self-harm, it doesn’t come close to encompassing the wide array of people who self-harm or, more importantly, the reasons people engage in self-harmful behaviors.
Self-harm is typically a sign of a much larger issue, and is often a symptom of a mental health disorder, such as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). The problem with the stereotype is that we may turn a blind eye to a friend, loved one, or co-worker who may be self-harming because they don’t look like the “typical” person who would self-harm.
Signs of Self-Harm
Self-harmful behaviors don’t discriminate. Anyone from a successful businesswoman to your teenager’s best friend may be engaging in self-harmful behaviors. But if you don’t recognize the signs of self-harm, you may never even notice, as most people who engage in self-injury go to great lengths to cover the evidence.
The signs of self-harm include the following:
- Thin, almost cat-scratch like cuts
- Unusual bruises or burns
- The person regularly wears long sleeves or heavy clothing, even if it’s warm
- The person seems depressed or anxious
- The person becomes angry or defensive if asked about the bruises, burns, or cuts
Why do People Self-Harm?
Self-harm is also known as non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), as those who engage in self-harm typically don’t intend to end their life. So why do they do it?
There are many reasons someone may self-harm:
- Self-harm may be a coping mechanism, the pain being a controlled physical pain versus an uncontrollable emotional pain from a past trauma such as sexual abuse or childhood neglect.
- Self-harm may distract someone from everyday stresses such as relationship problems, financial troubles, or a stressful work environment.
- Self-harm may be an attempt to draw concern from others, or a cry for help.
- Self-harm could even be a symptom of psychosis. The person may actually be hearing “voices” warning that if they don’t cut, bang their head against the wall, or engage in other self-harm, that something bad will happen.
Not everyone who self-harms suffers from psychosis, of course. Still, there is truly no safe amount of self-harm, so help should be sought.
Self-harm can, in fact, lead to irreparable physical damage. Ultimately, it can even lead to death from either cutting too deep or from a resulting infection.
There are other, healthier coping skills out there. There are even therapies, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), that can help you to stop your self-harmful behaviors.
If you or someone you love is engaging in self-harm, along with Borderline Personality Disorder or another mental health disorder, find a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) treatment center for women today to get the help you need to stop harming yourself and learn healthier ways to cope.