Self-Injury is the act of deliberately hurting yourself, such as cutting or burning - that is not meant as a suicidal act. Self-injury is an unhealthy way to cope with emotional pain, anger, and frustration.
Self-injury, besides being dangerous, is also addicting and may become increasingly serious. Self-injury is a big fucking deal.
So...What's That Mumbo-Jumbo Mean?
Self-injury can take tons of forms and I'd be here all year if I tried to list them out. So instead, because I am lazy, I'm giving you some common ways people self-injure.
- Carving stuff on your skin
- Interfering with wound healing
- Pulling out hair
- Piercing skin with sharp objects
- Skin picking/digging
What's Self-Injury Look Like, Yo?
- Unexplained injuries
- Acting embarrassed or ashamed about injuries if you notice 'em.
- Fresh cuts, scratches, or bruises
- Broken bones
- Withdrawing from relationships
- Relationship, work, school troubles
- Wearing long sleeves or long pants even in hot weather
- Feeling like crap about yourself
Wait, Do I Self-Injure?
A lot of the time, self-injury is called cutting (if I'm being neurotic, which I am, it's also called self-abuse, self-harm and self-mutilation). But, cutting is not the only way that someone can self-injure. Picking at scabs, pulling out hair, burning, punching, hitting your head against the wall, and many other methods are considered self-injury.
Self-injury even includes drinking poisons like bleach or detergent.
You don’t have to require stitches or a trip to the emergency room to self-injure. Even if you think it isn’t “bad enough,” it is.
If you do stuff like this, especially when you're really upset, you probably self-injure.
Wait. Don't run away. It's okay. Here at The Band, you should know you're not alone. Ever.
You, my friend, can be all EYE OF THE TIGER about self-injury AND overcome it.
Why The Shit Do People Self-Injure?
- It soothes them or calms their intense emotions.
- To punish themselves.
- It may express self-loathing.
- Exerting control over their own body, especially if they feel out of control.
- Trying to express stuff they can't put into words.
- It distracts them from stuff they can't control.
- Self-injury may regulate powerful emotions.
So That's What Self-Injury IS. What ISN'T Self-Injury?
- Self-injury is not suicidal behavior. While sometimes people die from self-injuries, it's a total accident. Usually people who self-harm aren't looking to kill themselves.
- Self-harm is not a cry for attention. Tons of people – family, friends, even doctors – may believe that self-injury is attention-seeking behavior; they are wrong. People who self-harm usually try to hide what they are doing because they're ashamed.
- People who self-injure are not crazy. Those who self-injure are trying to deal with trauma, not mental illness. People who self-injure are just coping the only way they know how.
Shit. I'm Self-Injuring. Now What?
- Acknowledge it.
- Talk to someone you trust. Anyone - a doctor, a counselor, a friend, a parent.
- Figure out what causes you to self-injure (your "triggers"). Once you know your triggers, you can work to avoid or figure out these triggers.
- Remember: self-injury is an attempt to soothe yourself. You're going to have to develop healthier ways to make yourself feel better.
Shit. My Friend's Self-Injuring. HALP!
- Talk to your friend privately (i.e. not at the lunch table or in gym class) about their self-injury.
- Be supportive of your friend.
- Don’t tell your friend to “get over it” or accuse them of “doing it for attention.” Because that's a hot pile of bullshit.
- If you offer to listen to your friend, be prepared because their feelings might be overwhelming. You may not understand, and you might want to talk them out of it. You might want to make them stop, to threaten to withhold your friendship or caring if they don’t. Please don’t. This will just make them feel like dog shit.
- Your friend can only stop self-injuring when they decide it's time. It's not up to you.
- Validate their feelings: “I understand how hard this is," or "I understand shit sucks, yo."
- Don't be a judgy-pants about your friend's self-injurious behavior or reasons behind it. Judgement is unhelpful and can hurt your friend.
- Offer your friend specific forms of help, like finding a counselor. It's hard as hell to find the light when you're in the dark. So offer the help. Keep offering it.
- Make sure that your friend knows that you still heart them madly even though they self-injure. Self-injury is a coping mechanism like any other, and while it’s hard to understand, your friend is doing their best. Make sure they know that you think that.
- If you think your friend is in danger, or they have a plan for suicide, notify your parents, a teacher, a pastor, or any other trusted adult immediately.
- Remember: This is not your fault. You cannot fix it for them.
Resources for Self-Injury:
Safe Alternative – Referrals for therapists and tips on how not to self-injure.
Self-Injury Foundation - provides awareness for those who self-injure, provide funding for research, advocacy and support for those who self-injure and their families. Also has list of support groups by state in the USA.
Self-Injury Support - Provides referrals and support for patients in the UK.