You might not have ever considered some of the things that you do to self-harm, even if they only pose a small danger to yourself. This is often due to a kind of negligence and ignorance towards the things we know that harm us, which is why it is extremely vital to be aware of our potentially damaging behaviours, and if there is an underlying problem, talk to the right people.
Self-mutilation is commonly how most people understand and refer to self-harm, however, there are many self-harming behaviours that you do every day without knowing. Below will uncover some of the ways – the what, why and how certain common behaviours are harming you – along with what you can do to remedy these issues.
We all self-harm?
You might be surprised to hear that the majority of us actually engage in some form of self-harm. Whilst self-harm is often thought to just refer to cutting, there are some more common self-harming behaviours such as, smoking; drinking alcohol; persisting with an abusive relationship; comfort eating; picking at the skin; or putting undue pressure on oneself. These are all often things we deny as being potentially harmful, or neglect to even notice.
These behaviours distract us from being able to think and deal with the causes that are connected with these symptoms: to tackle the thoughts behind the actions. Unless we genuinely reflect on them and try to address them, we’ll continue to employ these behaviours.
Why do people self-harm?
Some people consider self-harm to be a form of addiction, for others, it is a coping strategy; a temporary and sometimes fast relief from distress. Reasons include to ease pain, tension or anxiety, or as a response to feelings of guilt.
Some consider tattoos and piercings to be a form of self-harm while others consider it a cultural or personal expression. Self-harm can also be a symptom of a more severe mental health disorder such as emotionally unstable personality disorder.
How to help
Self-harm usually begins in adolescence and most self-harmers are women (approximately two thirds), however men often don’t seek help as much as women so we cannot be sure as to the accuracy of these figures. Friends of self-harmers, if they are even aware of the issue, will often avoid talking about it and self-harmers themselves may skirt around the topic with friends and therapists.
It is important to look at the triggers for self-harm and help people to connect with the thoughts and feelings involved. As these triggers are usually formed from experiences in the past, it is important to adopt different therapeutic approaches to suit.
Psychodynamic therapy is the technique of bringing out the unconscious mind into words, this helps people to untangle these deep negative thoughts in order to understand and resolve the issue. Most of the time these individuals will go into denial so that these past memories and experiences don’t arise from the mind, this is what the psychotherapist will focus on resolving.
Meanwhile, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is very effective at helping change the thoughts behind behaviours and is more focused on present problems rather than the past. The process of this type of therapy is to focus on your devastating problems by sorting them into smaller parts. After this you are guided on how to transform these harmful patterns to a happier state of mind in everyday life.
Some people will suffer from self-harm in the form of eating disorders; the two primary disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. We all need to eat. It’s essential to our physical and mental health, but we all approach it differently at different times of our lives. Problems occur when we start to eat to cope with other issues, and this is common when we develop low self-esteem.
Anorexia sufferers will consider themselves overweight, no matter what their weight and they often exercise excessively and restrict their food intake. Bulimia nervosa sufferers will eat large quantities of food in a short space of time and then use compensatory behaviours such as induced vomiting, sometimes using ipecac syrup, and laxatives. They will also often exercise excessively.
There are also two lesser known conditions which are binge eating disorder (BED) and compulsive overeating. BED is usually characterised by binge eating without purging and can lead to obesity. Compulsive overeating is characterised by persistently eating, even when not hungry. Most sufferers are therefore overweight.
Part of the challenge for us as a society is to combat the “thin ideal” which is being instilled in children early on. As a result, it can become a learned behaviour. However, the ideal should perhaps not to be thin – or being any shape or size at all in fact – but to have good self-esteem.
Hopefully, you have learnt something new today and found this blog post useful. Please leave any comments if you want someone to talk to or visit our Twitter @StevenMLucas and Facebook if you would like any extra guidance.