Pain of Pain
In recognition of Self Harm Awareness Day, let's discuss the pain behind the pain. What is self harm? According to Psychology Today, self-harm or self-mutilation is the act of deliberately inflicting pain and damage on one's own body. Self-harm most often refers to cutting, burning, scratching, and other forms of external injury; it can, however, also include internal or emotional harm, such as consuming toxic amounts of alcohol or drugs or deliberately taking part in unsafe sex.
Why do people engage in the act of self-injury? From individuals that self harm, they describe it as a release of pent-up pain, anxiety, anger, or sadness. The sight and feeling the release of the injury is like the discharge of steam from a pressure cooker when released after it is done. With no intent to die by suicide, the individual has done what looks as merely inflicting pain on self. There is a temporary jolt of pain followed by a release of emotion and can become habit-forming. It is a negative coping skill to deal with trauma, an attempt to regain control, relieve stress and anxiety, and also to deal with pressures of life. This negative coping skill makes little sense to many people and when faced with a person who engages in this type of behavior, most people use language and behavior that adds to the blame and shame the person already feels. Which unintentionally can lead to more self-harming thoughts and behavior. The vicious cycle can create conflict in families and friends, lead to an unintentional death, increased mental health concerns, suicidal ideations and/or attempts, and more self-destructive behavior.
What are some ways to address these behaviors? Seeking professional help is always key. Professional help can be used in addition to other positive coping strategies and treatment. The goal is to replace the self-harming behavior with a positive coping strategy, releasing the pressure in a more controlled and safe manner. Family members can also seek understanding in going to Mental Health First Aide Training and attending therapy together with their loved one when the opportunity presents itself.
Pain is not the answer to pain. Bringing awareness to not only mental health but also to specific behaviors and negative coping strategies to deal with mental health challenges is important as well. Mach 1st is Self Harm Awareness Day. What will yo do differently to be the change?