A 52-year-old mother of four is starting a new career while adjusting to her oldest child going to college. A 35-year-old insurance agent and single father of two small children feels stuck but does not know what else to do. An 11-year-old is moving schools and hoping this year he will finally have friends. The appearance of these individual lives is distinctly different, but they share an internal, emotional reality. The particular stressors differ but the method of handling them does not: these individuals participate in self-harm.
“Other times, I look at my scars and see something else:
a girl who was trying to cope with something horrible that she should never have had to live through at all. My scars show pain and suffering, but they also show my will to survive. They’re part of my history that’ll always be there.”
― Cheryl Rainfield, Scars
Difficult and even traumatic life circumstances often drive people to cope in any way they can, even through self-harm. Most people who injure themselves did not ask for these situations in their lives, and they are expressing their pain in what might be the only way they know how to express it: on their bodies. Hate and shame can all too easily turn inward.
Help is available for people who are ready to learn new ways of processing the pain—ways that bring life and hope. That is why Thriveworks Grand Rapids offering therapy for cutting and other forms of self-harm. For many of our clients, inflicting pain upon themselves is the only way they know how to cope, but our therapists have helped them find a new path.
Different Forms of Self-Injury
Cutting may be the most well-known form of self-injury, but it is by no means the only form. There are many different ways that people can express their emotional pain through physical pain. Often, people combine several forms of self-injury.
Various types of self-harm may include…
- Sabotaging a healing process—picking scabs, undoing stitches, et cetera.
- Burning—using heat, matches, cigarettes, ropes, or more to injure.
- Carving, branding, or tattooing—expressing the physical and emotional pain with a symbol, word, or picture.
- Punching—hitting, biting, pinching oneself.
- Scratching or cutting—slashing, stabbing, piercing one’s skin with a sharp object.
- Pulling hair—painfully removing a substantial amount of hair.
People may participate in self-injury for a short season, quit for a while, and then self-harm again after many years. They may also self-harm on a regular and on-going basis.
Self-Mutilation: Risk Factors
While any stressful or traumatic circumstance may trigger people to cope through self-harm, a few factors in particular raise people’s risk for self-injury. For example, people for face the following may also face a higher chance of participating in self-injurious activity:
- Psychological Pain: Unfortunately, childhood abuse and neglect is often a common denominator among people who self-harm. Other forms of psychological pain can contribute as well: bereavement, strained relationships, poverty, unemployment, to name a few.
- Mental Health Diagnosis: Self-harm is not a mental health diagnosis in itself, but it often accompanies other mental illnesses. In particular, self-mutilation often accompanies the following diagnoses—depression, borderline personality disorder, a conduct disorder, bipolar disorder, an autism spectrum disorder, phobias, or schizophrenia.
- Drug or Alcohol Use/abuse: In one study conducted in Norther Ireland, in over 60 percent of self-injury cases, alcohol was a factor. Often, drug and alcohol use are present when the injuries are inflicted.
Other Options: Healthy Coping Mechanisms
For many people, self-harm is the only way they know to survive and feel relief. Learning different ways to handle difficult emotions is a challenging journey, but many people are learning new coping mechanisms. For example, people can respond to emotional pain by…
- Reaching out to a friend. Think about someone who cares about you—someone who would listen without judgment. Could you call that person when you feel upset? Lonely? Scared? Numb? Slowly tell a friend more and more about what you are feeling and thinking.
- Prioritize your own safety. Avoid triggering situations or media and movies that depict self-harm. Protect yourself, both physically and emotionally, is important.
- Notice your own emotions. Take a deep breath in a quiet place. Trying different techniques for awareness—yoga and journaling are a few. Give yourself permission to feel anything that arises.
Often, when people are learning new coping techniques, they work with a mental health professional. A skilled therapist can identify which coping skills would be most fruitful in a particular person’s life—given their circumstances and history. Mental health counselors also work with their clients to identify the cause of the self-harm—when it began and what wound it may be seeking to heal. Counselors can then help people heal the foundational cause of the behavior. People can experience freedom from self-injury.
Therapy for Self-Mutilation at Thriveworks Grand Rapids
If you are ready to meet with a counselor about cutting or other forms of self-harm, know that the professionals at Thriveworks are ready for you. Struggling with self-injury is difficult, but reaching out for help should be easy. At Thriveworks Grand Rapids, we have done our best to make scheduling therapy as convenient as possible.
When you call our office, a person will answer and help schedule your appointment. New clients regularly meet with their therapist within 24 hours of their call. We accept many forms of insurance, and we offer weekend and evening appointments.
Contact Thriveworks Grand Rapids. We are ready to help.