Sandra is working hard so that someday she can retire, but she has no idea when that day will be. Justin is working non-stop to pay off his credit card debt, students loans, and car. He thinks it will take him ten more years at this pace, and he has no idea how he is going to survive. Molly is starting middle school. Her dad is in the military, and this is her fourth new school. Molly, Justin, and Sandra are all working through different life circumstances, but they are processing these challenges in the same way: with cutting. Men and women, children, teens and adults can turn to self-harm as a coping mechanism for handling trauma and stress. For people who utilize cutting and self-injury to survive, they are often doing their best to survive difficult circumstances.
“It was a way of expressing my own shame of myself on my own body. I was matching the inside to the outside. And there were sometimes where my emotions were just so built up, I didn’t know what to do…” –Demi Lovato
Many people can relate to Demi’s experiences: difficulties build up, and they do not know what to do. The only way they know how to cope may be to turn the pain inward—upon their own body. This may be the only way they know to survive the experiences of trauma, victimization, poverty, and more. Many people, however, are learning a new way.
If you have coped with your pain through self-harm, are you open to a different form of relief? Thriveworks Conway has counselors who have walked with people as they turn from self-harm and experience new forms of relief and healing.
Signs Someone May Use Self-Harm
Cutting is probably the most well-known form of self-injury, but it is only one form. Self-harm will look different in each individual. Some people burn, brand, or carve their skin in self-harm. Some pluck out large portions of their body hair. Some interfere with their body’s natural healing process—picking scabs and stitches. Some cut, scratch, pinch, or bite themselves to cause the injury. Some cause their injuries in a ritualistic way—every day or every week. Some turn to self-harm during particularly stressful seasons of life.
Because of form that self-harm takes can differ from person to person, so can the signs that someone may be hurting themselves. If someone is displaying one or more of the following symptoms, they may be coping with life through self-harm:
- New wounds upon their body—burns, scratches, bruises, brands, or cuts.
- Access to or obsession with weapons that may be used to injure.
- Wearing long-sleeves, jackets, and/or pants even in warm weather.
- Struggling with their identity and purpose—Who am I? Why am I here?
- Displays of unpredictable and impulsive actions.
- Relational challenges with teachers, bosses, family, friends, and more.
- Experiencing emotions such as hopelessness, helplessness, and/or worthlessness.
Why Might Someone Use Self-Injury to Cope?
The specific details of what drives someone to use cutting or other forms of injury are unique, but there are certain situations that could raise a person’s risk. In particular, psychological pain and self-harm are strongly connected. Traumas such as child abuse, domestic violence, neglect, and poverty can spark difficult, emotional turmoil. The psychological pain may involve feelings of confused sexuality, panic, guilt, anger, rejection, worthlessness, and/or self-hatred, and many people struggle to handle these emotions. When people turn to self-harm, they may be seeking…
- Relief from the anxiety.
- Anything to distract themselves from their pain.
- A way to feel more in control of their lives.
- A form of expression for what they have experienced.
- To feel anything, even pain, instead of numbness.
- To punish themselves for their perceived shortcomings.
Self-harm may bring a short-lived sense of relief, but in the long-term, it does not bring healing. In fact, many times, it makes the psychological pain worse. To find healing, many people are turning away from self-harm and working with a mental health professional to learn new coping skills.
Someone You Love May Be Cutting
If a family member or friend is using self-harm, you may be in a position to help them heal and be safe. The most helpful actions may also be the most simple. Simply listening and expressing love can help a great deal.
- Listen with empathy: Sometimes being supportive means not doing certain things—not judging, not fixing, not interrupting. If your loved one opens up about their problems, simply listen.
- Articulate your care and support: Tell them how you care about them. If it is appropriate, offer support in tangible ways. Maybe they want a ride to a counseling session. Maybe they need help finding a support group.
Self-Harm Counseling at Thriveworks Conway
Is self-harm the best way you know how to handle the pain you are experiencing? The counselors at Thriveworks understand. We know you are doing you best to process difficulties that you did not choose. When you are ready to learn new coping techniques, we are ready to help.
When you call our office, know that we accept most forms of insurance. New clients often meet with their counselor the day following their call to schedule an appointment. We also offer evening and weekend sessions.
Dealing with the traumas and challenges of life is hard enough. Scheduling therapy should be easy. Contact Thriveworks Conway. We are ready to help.