Self-Injury Awareness Month

Self-injury is any form of hurting oneself on purpose.  Approximately 1% of the United States population uses physical self-injury as a way of dealing with overwhelming feelings or situations, often using it to speak when no words will come. Each year, one in five females and one in seven males engage in self-harm behaviors; 90 percent of individuals who engage in self-harm begin during their teen or pre-adolescent years; Nearly 50 percent of individuals who engage in self-injury activities have been sexually abused; Females comprise 60 percent of individuals who engage in self-injurious behavior; Approximately 50 percent of those who engage in self harm behavior begin 14 years of age and continue into their 20s; Many individuals who engage in self-injury behavior report learning how to do so from their friends or pro self-injury websites or social media pages; Approximately two million cases are reported annually in the United States. All of these self-injury statistics come from reliable sources however truly accurate rates and trends associated with self harm are difficult to come by because the majority of individuals who engage in self harm behavior conceal their activities. Their behaviors may never come to the attention of medical professionals or other social services. Despite the fact that self-injury is far from rare, myths and misunderstanding surround this psychological ailment — mistaken ideas that often result in people that engage in self-injury being treated badly by police, doctors, therapists, and emergency room personnel.

  • Why Do People Self-Injure?: Everyone needs a way to cope with their emotions. For some people, when depression and anxiety lead to a tornado of emotions, they turn to self-injury looking for a release. People who self-injure have turned to hurting themselves as their coping mechanism to manage their emotions. Usually, when people self-injure, they do not do so as a suicide attempt. Rather, they self-injure as a way to release painful emotions. So, people might self-injure to: Process their negative feelings; Distract themselves from their negative feelings; Feel something physical, particularly if they are feeling numb; Develop a sense of control over their lives; Punish themselves for things they think they’ve done wrong; Express emotions that they are otherwise embarrassed to show.
  • Effects of Self-Injury: Self-injury can be seriously dangerous—physically, emotionally, socially, all of it.
    Physical Effects of Self-Injury: Permanent scars; Uncontrolled bleeding; Infection; Emotional Effects of Self-Harm; Guilt or shame; A diminished sense of self, including feeling helpless or worthless; Addiction to the behavior. Social Effects of Self-Injury: Avoiding friends and loved ones; Becoming ostracized from loved ones who may not understand; Interpersonal difficulty from lying to others about injuries
  • Types of Self-Injury: Self-injury can manifest differently for everyone. And, the ways people may self-injury extend far beyond the usual references to cutting in media. Simply, self-injury is anything and everything someone can do to purposely hurt their body. Here are some of the most common types of self-injury: Cutting; Scratching; Burning; Carving words or symbols into the ski;, Hitting or punching oneself (including banging one’s head or other body parts against another surface); Piercing the skin with sharp objects such as hairpins; Pulling out hair; Picking at existing wounds.
  • Symptoms of Self-Injury: Stigma creates shame and embarrassment, making it hard for people who self-injure to get help. So, look out for yourself and for your pals. If you suspect that someone in your life is self-injuring, here are some warning signs to keep top of mind: Scars; Fresh cuts, burns, scratches, or bruises; Rubbing an area excessively to create a burn; Having sharp objects on hand; Wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather; Difficulties with interpersonal relationships; Persistent questions about personal identity; Behavioral and emotional instability, impulsiveness, or unpredictability; Saying that they feel helpless, hopeless, or worthless.
  • How to Deal With Self-Injury: We all need healthy ways to cope with the hard stuff. We’re here to help you find a healthy alternative to self-injury. Emotions can be really painful sometimes. It’s totally normal to need ways to cope with and process the hard things in your life. If you are using self-injury to manage your emotions, we’re here for you. And, we want to help keep you safe. Here are some ways to push through, process, and cope with your emotions: Reach out to someone to talk when you are dealing with painful emotions, We’re here to hear you and offer help. Call us to connect with a mental health professional and strategize healthy coping mechanisms to manage your emotions. Get creative. Studies show that diving into making art can help people process emotions. So, next time you’re feeling like self-injuring, grab your sharpie and doodle your worries away. Find your zen. Keeping yourself safe from self-injuring is all about finding healthy alternatives to work through the hard stuff. Researchers found taking time to re-center through meditation to be a powerful way to find your cool and calm. Try using a mindfulness app to help you combat anxiety, sleep better, hone your focus, and more. Talk to a pro. Self-injury is serious. And, while the intention behind self-injury usually is not death, it can still be dangerous—both physically and emotionally. Talking to someone who can help you find alternatives is incredibly important. You can find a provider in the community on the New Mexico Network of Care. Know that you are not in this alone. Tell someone you know what is going on. Ask them if they can help you connect with a professional.
  • Recovering from Self-Injury: A lot of people who self-injure do so because they are dealing with painful emotions. If this applies to you, hi—we believe in you and recognize your pain. Because painful emotions are at the root of self-injury, quite often recovering from self-injury involves addressing emotions. Breaking away from the cycle of self-injury can feel like a huge climb. It involves breaking a habit that has once brought comfort from pain. But, it is not impossible. Here are some steps to set you up for success: Name your reason for hurting yourself and your reason for quitting. Ask yourself: “What do I feel before, during, and after self-injury? Which of those emotions do I actively seek out, and which are harmful?” Identify other ways of achieving the same result. For example, if you self-injure for the physical sensation, seek other ways of releasing endorphins, like exercise. For real, try throwing a few punches at a kickboxing class or tapping it back in a spin class with the *perfect* playlist. If you self-injure to express your emotions, practice expressing them in words by writing them down. Grab a pen and your favorite notebook, or start typing away in your notes app. Tackle the underlying emotions. Explore the feelings that lead you to want to hurt yourself. If it’s guilt, where is that guilt coming from? Maybe try finding a therapist—there are pros trained specifically to help with this. Tell someone you trust. Let a friend, family member, or trusted adult know what you’re going through and that you need their support. Opening up to people can be easier said than done. Here’s a place to start: “I’m having a hard time processing some painful emotions and I could use your support right now.”

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