Theresa’s husband just passed away in a terrible accident. They were about to retire and start living their dream. Now, Theresa is having to rebuild her life in her mid-60s. Mac feels stuck. He has been in the same job for ten years, and he does not know how to move ahead. Anya is starting her sixth-grade year at her fourth school. Maybe at this school, she will find friends. Anya, Mac, and Theresa are facing very different circumstances, but they are coping with these circumstances in a similar way. They are doing the best they can to put one foot in front of the other, and for them, they are turning their emotional pain into physical harm. They are cutting.
“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
Trauma and stress can trigger substantial emotional and psychological pain. Many times, people face life challenges they never asked to face and have no idea how to handle. Many people can identify with Cheryl Rainfield’s words—they are suffering, but they are also surviving. They are doing the best they know to process their pain.
Many people who have coped through self-harm in the past are learning that there is another way. They are survivors, and while cutting may have helped them endure in the short term, they want more for the long term. These people are also working with mental health professionals to heal wounds and learn new coping skills.
That is why Thriveworks Knoxville offers therapy for self-harm. We have worked with many clients who self-harm, and our therapists have watched them learn new, healthier ways to handle life’s stress and trauma.
Self-Harm’s Various Forms
Cutting is likely the most recognizable form of self-harm, but it is by no means the only form. There is no limit to the ways people can pursue self-injury, and each individual’s method is unique and personal. Some people self-harm as a response to difficult seasons in life, and they go months or even years in between injuring themselves. Others self-harm as a ritual—possibly even on a daily basis.
While self-mutilation will be unique to each person, examples of the various forms of self-harm include:
- Undermining a wound’s healing process—Picking at scabs, pulling out stitches, aggravating injuries, and more.
- Plucking out body hair—Painfully pulling significant portions of hair upon one’s body and/or head.
- Branding or carving—Incorporating a word, picture, or symbol into the harm.
- Pinching, biting, slapping, punching, or hitting oneself.
- Burning—Using heat, cigarettes, matches, irons, ropes, or more to damage one’s skin.
- Cutting—lacerating, stabbing, scratching, slashing, or piercing the skin with a knife or similar object.
Increasing the Risk for Self-Injury
The answers to when, why, and how people cope with self-harm will be unique to each person, but generally speaking, there are situations that people face that may increase their risk of turning to self-injury as a coping mechanism. The following as risk factors for cutting and other forms of self-harm:
- A Mental Health Diagnosis: Certain mental health illnesses have self-harm as a symptom. Phobias, bipolar disorder, depression, autism spectrum disorder, borderline personality disorder, conduct disorders, and schizophrenia increase a person’s risk of self-injury.
- Psychological Pain: A common thread woven through people who self-harm is the intense psychological pain they experience. Child abuse, poverty, domestic violence, poverty, bereavement may have caused the pain, and people are often tormented by the emotional turmoil these traumas can trigger.
- Drug or Alcohol Use: Alcohol or drugs are often factors in people’s decision to self-harm. One study tracked patients who presented to a Northern Ireland hospital for self-harm. Over 60 percent of patients used alcohol while they injured themselves.
Other Coping Mechanisms
When people utilize self-harm, they are often doing the best they know to survive. The old cliché, however, is often true, “when we know better, we do better.” When people who self-harm learn different ways of coping, they have different ways to cope when they feel that psychological pain. Thus, learning other coping mechanisms is an important part of healing. Examples of different coping methods include…
Prioritizing one’s physical and emotional safety. Give yourself permission to avoid unsafe people and situations where you will feel triggered. Think about when and where you feel safe, and pursue those situations.
Practice mindfulness. After numbing emotions for so long, allow yourself to feel anything. Anger. Sadness. Regret. Happiness. Guilt. Allow those feeling to arise and notice them.
Connect with a friend. Is there someone in your life who could encourage you? Support you? Consider reaching out and asking that loved one for what you need.
Thriveworks Knoxville’s Therapy for Self-Injury
Learning how to cope without harming oneself can be a difficult process, and many people turn to mental health professionals to guide their way. Skilled therapists may be able to lead people toward long-term healing instead of momentary relief.
If you are ready to see a therapist about your self-injuries, know that Thriveworks Knoxville has appointments available. When you call our office, you may have your first appointment within 24 hours. We offer weekend and evening appointments, and we work with most insurance companies.
Let’s get started. Call Thriveworks Knoxville today.