Managing Self-Harm behaviour

Dr. Sneha Sharma

Truth about Self-harm

Self harm behaviour is usually a taboo and is often kept a secret. However the behaviour itself isn’t uncommon and frequently encountered in adolescent and young adults. Understanding of this behaviour in self and others will be helpful in dealing with the same.

What is self-harm

Self-harm is a way of causing direct, deliberate physical damage to your body, usually to cope up with painful thoughts or trauma without the intention of suicide, and for purposes that aren’t socially sanctioned,. Cutting, burning, or substance abuse are different form of Self-harm behaviour. There is no specific age group that is prone to self-harm. It can affect anyone going through a difficult phase, anytime.

While for some people, it is easy to talk to friends and family to discuss their problems, some people find it very difficult to express their emotions. When such person does not speak about their feelings, anger, numbness and pain, stress can become bottled up and unbearable. In such situations, people resort to harming themselves as a way of coping.

Myths

Myriad of myths surround self harm behaviour which contribute to stigma and act as a deterrent in seeking help. Listed below are certain myths that are associated with Self-harm behaviour:

  1. Attention Seeking Behaviour

 Most of the people engaging in self harm behaviour are ashamed and embarrassed of their  self harm behaviour. In cases where it might look as an attention-seeking indulgence, its usually a cry for help or a need to communicate.

  • Suicidal Behaviour

It is easy to confuse self-harm with suicide by those who do not understand it. However, it should be made clear that the person’s intention is not to kill themselves. It is very crucial to help the person going through the pain. Not understanding them or helping them appropriately can lead to worse consequences.

  • People enjoy doing it

Some people believe that self harm behaviour is pleasure seeking behaviour. The underlying belief is that those who self harm get pleasure from pain or risk taking behaviour. Rather than seeking pleasure, self harm behaviour can be to seek respite from feeling numb or to relief tensions building up due to stress.

     4.   Only girls can self-harm

No predilection towards any gender is evident even though different genders might have different reasons to self harm.

     5.   It is a sign of weakness

It is not a sign of low intelligence or weakness. The person wants to convert their emotional pain into physical pain.

     6. Severity of the self harm reflects severity of person’s problem

It is important to take a person seriously regardless of how severe or minor their injuries might seem. The amount of physical trauma inflicted varies by a person’s resilience and endurance but is no reflection to the psychic pain.

    7. Self Harm behaviour is used for manipulation

Self harm behaviour is a flawed coping behaviour to greater underlying distress.

Self-harm cycle

Self-harm can become someone’s usual way of dealing with a difficult situation. Thus, it is imperative to seek help as soon as possible. It is essential to learn new methods to deal with such a situation and break the Self-harm cycle.

How to deal with someone who has self-harmed himself/herself

If a friend needs help, then it is vital to listen to their problems with no judgments. You should not force the person to seek advice, but you should always suggest connecting them with a trusted adult.

If you feel that the person is at a higher risk of injury, then you should not hesitate to call the emergency services.

Signs and Symptoms:

  1. Unexplained scars
  2. Low self-esteem
  3. Avoiding friends and family
  4. Problems in relationship
  5. Change of behavior
  6. No motivation

Seeking help

It is essential to know that self-harm is not a mental illness but is a behavior which can be manifestation of different problems.

To seek help, a person should connect with their friends, family, counselor, teacher, crisis line, mental health professional, or a family doctor. It will not be as hard as you think.

Tips for recovery

While it is essential to consult a doctor for a long-term solution, these below methods will help you whenever you feel the urge to harm yourself:

  1. Yoga: Deep breathing or any other relaxation methods can be beneficial.
  2. Divert: Divert yourself and do activities which give the same effect as self-harm, without causing any pain. Activities like punching a pillow, screaming in a pillow or taking a walk
  3. Make a happy list: Make a list of songs, photos, or books that makes you calm and happy.
  4. Avoid alcohol or drugs: Alcohol is a depressant which can make your brain cells slow. It is a temporary solution to divert the pain. Once the effect of alcohol wears off, you will feel worse.

Helplines active in India:

Sneha Foundation India (+91 4424640050)

Vandrevala Foundation (18602662345)

Roshni (+91 4066202000)

Cooj (+91 8322252525)

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