Carroll College, Helena Montana

Self Inflicted Violence

Self-Harm Behaviors

The term self-harm is defined as the intentional harm of one’s own body without conscious suicidal intent. Examples of self-harm include hitting, cutting, burning, picking, and pulling out hair. Self harming behaviors typically begins in adolescence and becomes more frequent in the early twenties. It often decreases or disappears in the thirties.

Self harming behaviors creates visible and invisible wounds.

The reasons people self-injure are complex and can often stem from trauma or psychological disorders. A person who engages in self harm may also be diagnosed with a chemical disorder like bipolar disorder; eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia; and obsessive-compulsive disorder, among others. Many self-injurers suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as the result of sexual or emotional abuse.

Although it may seem odd, self-harm is actually used as a way to temporarily feel better. it helps some people feel better by giving them a way to physically express and release their tension and emotional pain. it may produce chemical changes in the body that makes one feel happier or more relaxed. Persons who have been abused often feel like they are “bad”, and it is a way to punish themselves. Some people say that they feel numb, unable to feel or experience anything and SIV is used as an attempt to feel something in their lives.

Self-harm is not a disgusting or shameful act. Inflicting injuries on yourself enables you to cope and survive what may feel like unbearable stress or emotional pain. Coming out about your SIV behaviors will enable you to dispel your feelings of shame and begin to foster feelings of pride and worth.

Though self-harm can be difficult to stop, it is possible. Once the self-abuser gets help in solving the problems that are at the root of the behavior, chances are good that she or he will be able to stop hurting herself and lead a healthier, happier life.

While the self-harm behavior may be a way to cope, it is advisable to learn new ways of dealing with stress. There is a danger of infection and permanent scarring with each wound, and some self-injurers find that they have to cut or hurt themselves more severely and more frequently as time goes on. The professionals in the Counseling Center can help you to learn other, more gentle and healing ways to cope. Call 447-5441 to set up an appointment.

Helping a Friend Talk about the self-harming behaviors

  • Tell the person you are concerned and are there to listen.
  • Be supportive. Keep your negative reactions to yourself. Judgments and negative responses are not supportive.
  • Recognize the severity of the person’s distress. Your friend is suffering from an extreme level of emotional pain. You ability to empathize with your friend will enhance your communication and connection.
  • Help your friend get help. She or he needs to speak with someone not only to help heal the visible wounds, but the invisible wounds as well. Ask if he/she would like you to accompany her to Counseling Services. Your willingness to go with her may be the support she needs. 

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