Randolf is 12 and moving schools—again. He hopes that in this class, he will finally be safe from bullying. Mary is a 32 and a single mother to four kids. She works part-time and feels like she is at her wit’s end. Brenda is 55 and recently divorced. She feels like she has to start from scratch to rebuild a new life. The details of Brenda’s, Mary’s, and Randolf’s lives are distinct and very different, but their inner emotional lives are very similar. They are experiencing intense psychological pain and are not sure how to handle their emotions so they are expressing the pain the only way they know how—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
Traumatic life events as well as other difficult and stressful situations can trigger intense emotional pain. Many people do not how to cope with these feelings and turn to methods of handling the pain that make the most sense to them at the time. For many, that means expressing their emotional pain through causing themselves to feel physical pain. They may internalize the hate and shame they feel.
When people are ready to learn different ways of processing these difficult experiences and intense emotions, know that Thriveworks Philadelphia can guide and support their journey. Our counselors and therapists have seen people who self-harm learn how to cope with their pain in ways that heal and restore themselves.
Self-Injury: More than Cutting
When most people think of self-harm, they most likely think of cutting, but cutting is just one form of self-injurious behavior. People who self-harm may choose a variety of methods to express their pain. Examples of the various forms of self-injury may look like…
- Hair pulling—Painfully plucking hair from one’s body.
- Sabotaging a wound’s healing—Undoing stitches, picking scabs, et cetera.
- Tattooing, branding, carving—Adding a word, symbol, or picture to the physical pain.
- Burning—Utilizing matches, heat, cigarettes, ropes, or more to damage skin and induce pain.
- Biting, punching, hitting, or pinching oneself.
- Scratching or cutting—using a knife or other sharp object to stab, slash, pierce the skin.
For some, they self-harm occasionally while others do so on a consistent basis.
Self-Harm: What Puts People at Risk?
There are several factors that can increase a person’s risk for self-injurious behavior. When one or more of these situations are present in people’s lives, they may be more susceptible to turning to self-harm as a coping mechanism:
- Psychological Pain: Many people who self-harm have survived an abusive childhood. They may have faced neglect or various forms of maltreatment. There are other forms of psychological pain that can drive people to harm themselves—poverty, bereavement, toxic relationships, and more.
- Mental Health Diagnosis: Self-injury is not an independent diagnosis, but it often is a sign or symptom of certain forms of mental illness, particularly phobias, depression, a conduct disorder, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, an autism spectrum disorder, or schizophrenia.
- Drug or Alcohol Abuse: A research study in Northern Ireland looked at self-injury cases presented at a local hospital, and in over 60 percent of the cases, alcohol was a factor. When people inflict their injuries, they may also be using alcohol or drugs.
Alternative Coping Skills
When people turn to cutting or burning or any form of self-harm, they are doing the best they know to make it day-to-day and find any form of relief. Like the old saying goes, when people know better, they do better. Learning new coping skills is a difficult process, but many people who have turned from cutting to other forms of coping, they are so glad they made the change. Healthy ways of coping may include…
- Getting in touch with a friend. Consider for a moment: who in your life cares about you? Who will listen to you and support you? It takes courage, but call that person when feelings of loneliness (or sadness or fear or numbness) overwhelm you.
- Prioritize your own safety. You matter. Your emotional and physical safety matter. It is okay to avoid situations or people who feel unsafe and might trigger a self-harm.
- Notice your own emotions. Mindfulness is a word that people throw around a lot, but all it means is paying attention to yourself. Go to a quiet place. Take a breath. Some people enjoy journaling or going to a yoga class. The important part is letting yourself feel anything.
Counseling for Self-Mutilation at Thriveworks Philadelphia
When people begin learning new coping skills, they often seek out the help of a therapist or a counselor to guide their process. Mental health professionals may also be able to identify and heal the underlying cause of the self-harm.
If you are ready to work with a counselor, know that Thriveworks Philadelphia offers appointments for self-harm. When you call our office, a person will answer your call and help schedule your first appointment—which might be within 24 hours. We accept most forms of insurance. We also offer evening and weekend appointments.
Is it time to reach out for healing? Contact Thriveworks Philadelphia today.