It’s Self-Harm Awareness Month, and self-harm is when someone hurts themselves on purpose. Cutting is common, but it’s not the only kind of self-harm. Some people burn themselves, pull out hair, or pick at wounds.
Self-harm itself isn’t a mental illness, and it’s not the same as trying to commit suicide, but it can be a sign of a lack of coping skills, borderline personality disorder, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, or PTSD.
Self-harm usually starts during a person’s teenage or young adult years, and it’s usually a result of coping with trauma, neglect, or abuse.
Wanting to hurt yourself can be the result of rage, not knowing how to handle emotions, wanting to trigger endorphins, or simply the desire to feel something “real” instead of emotional numbness.
Self-harm can cause shame, both from the act of hurting yourself and from the scars that are left behind. This can lead to a dangerous cycle where self-harm causes feelings that can lead to more self-harm.
Getting help from a psychiatrist is a key part of treating the underlying issues that cause self-harm. Sometimes, a prescription like an antidepressant will be part of this treatment plan too.
If you suspect a loved one is self-harming, talk to them about how they’re doing and be prepared to hear the answer, even if it’s something that will hurt to hear. Reassure them that you care and offer to help them find treatment.