Sometimes people hurt themselves when going through an intensely painful time, or when struggling with symptoms of severe mental illness. If you’ve harmed yourself, it’s important to understand why it’s a problem, and what you can do to get help.
What Is Self-Harm?
Self-harm, also known as self-injury, is defined as the intentional, direct injuring of one’s own body, usually without suicidal intentions. Your self-harming behavior could take several forms, but the most common are cutting, scratching, hitting, or biting the skin to deliberately hurt yourself. Most people harm themselves to the point of visible bruising or bleeding, but cover up the signs of their self harm so that it’s harder for their loved ones to notice.
If you self-harm, you are not alone. It’s one of the most common problems we address when people contact TheHopeLine. Some estimates place the number of people who self-harm as high as one in five women, and one in seven men. HealthyPlace reports that as many as 90% of all people who self-harm started doing so in their teens.
Why Am I Harming Myself?
As with any harmful behavior or emotion, your reasons for cutting or other self-harm may differ from someone else’s. But we’ve noticed that many people who contact TheHopeLine engage in self-harm because of:
- Mental health diagnoses (especially depression) that are not sufficiently treated or managed
- Traumatic events like a death in the family, or a divorce, that leave people feeling helpless
- Low self-esteem and self-worth as a result of bullying or abuse
You may be drawn to self-harm out of a desire to control your pain. You may feel so emotionally numb that harming yourself allows you to at least feel something. Or you may feel a sense of release after hurting yourself. The secrecy may also be part of why it keeps happening. If no one notices your pain, you are likely to feel further isolated in that pain, prompting more self-harm.
Why Is Self-Harm Dangerous?
You may have convinced yourself that self-harm is not dangerous, since you are not attempting to kill yourself, and you are not actively hurting anyone but yourself. But self-harm is still a dangerous, risky behavior that you need to get help with immediately. Why?
- Self-harm could result in more serious injury than you intend.
- You may be more likely to consider or plan suicide in the future than someone who has never harmed themselves.
- The cyclical nature of self-harm, and its tendency to temporarily “soothe” means it often becomes an addiction. Addictive behavior puts you at risk of neglecting what’s normally important to you, and damages or strains even your closest relationships.
Breaking Free: Stopping Self-Harm
One of the biggest reasons people continue to self-harm, even when they know it’s dangerous, is fear that they will be judged or condemned by people they care about. At the TheHopeLine, we understand that self-harm is happening because of deep pain, and needs that feel unmet. We’ll never judge you, and we offer a confidential place to get help for cutting, self-harm, and other addictive behaviors. Reach out today to chat with or email a mentor, or request prayer. Help and freedom can start right away.