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Self-Harm Awareness Month - What Can Self-Harm Look like?

Updated: Jun 28, 2023

March is self-harm awareness month. Self-injury, known as Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI), is when a person engages in behaviors that intentionally inflict harm to themselves without the intent of suicide. Coping with underlying emotions that cause distress can be difficult, and people engage in self-injurious behaviors for various reasons as a form of coping. It is often associated with difficulties communicating, managing interpersonal relationships, and low self-esteem.

What can self-harm look like?

  • Cutting skin with sharp objects

  • Scratching

  • Skin picking

  • Banging head/and or other body parts against items

  • Hitting self

  • Biting self

  • Burning skin

  • Inserting foreign objects into the skin

The intent of harming oneself can also look different than what is typically defined as self-harm. Self-destructive behaviors can also be considered as self-harm, such as ;

Engaging in risky sexual behaviors

Reckless driving

Self-Neglect- Intentionally overeating or depriving yourself of food.

Intentionally over-exercising to the point of injury.

improving our mental health requires patience and hope in ourselves.

Self-harm can be temporary or become a chronic compulsion as a form of coping. There are high rates of self-injury behaviors in the adolescent population, especially in LGBTQI+ youth. Self-Injury is also high in individuals diagnosed with mental health disorders such as borderline personality disorder, bulimia, anorexia, and anxiety disorders. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “NSSI is considered a significant risk factor for both suicide attempts and death by suicide and may or may not accompany suicidal ideation.”

We are not born with coping skills that can help us regulate our emotions; it is a life-long process of acquiring them, adapting to circumstances, and applying them when needed. At times, additional support is needed to develop healthier coping skills, and there is a growing body of research on treating self-injury behaviors. Evidence-based treatments such as cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapy have proven effective.

If you or someone you know needs additional support, here are some resources below;

Crisis Text Line:

Text HOME to 741741 to reach a volunteer Crisis Counselor

Additional information:

By: Carolay Ceballos

Mental Health Counseling Intern

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