Even though I am not going to go into any great details or specifics about my past years of self-injurious behaviors, I am beginning this post with a trigger warning for many reasons. One, is that it could trigger past memories in a negative way and/or unfortunately hearing about self-injury can give others an idea to start engaging in this dangerous behavior. To that I strongly and loudly say, “DON’T!”
If you engage in self-injurious behavior of any kind… stop. If you are thinking of causing self-harm to your own body, don’t start. It is not worth it. Self-injurious behavior can become a very addictive and dangerous behavior.
I engaged in self-injurious behaviors for years of my life when the symptoms of my severe bipolar 1 disorder, PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, personality disorder and my initial postpartum depression became too severe for me to cope with.
When I was first diagnosed with bipolar, I would not accept it and I fought my diagnosis. I was also medication resistant and had many severe and adverse reactions to the many different medications they gave me over the years. I have been hospitalized too many times to count and especially after I was first diagnosed.
When, my severe bipolar hit I didn’t know how to cope with the severe pain bipolar causes and everything else that went with my new diagnosis. I was hospitalized too many times to count and for lengths of time too unbearable to comprehend. In the beginning, I knew nothing of self-injurious behavior, but soon learned about it from the other patients in the hospital during my many long hospital stays.
Because I heard about other people doing self-harm, it gave me the idea to try it. I started cutting on my arm infrequently until it progressed gradually for years and became my very unhealthy coping mechanism to relieve my severe mental pain and distract me from my suicidal ideations. I thought to myself that at least I wasn’t trying to kill myself and I was staying alive. This was not the best type of thinking either.
Through the many years of engaging in self-harm, my techniques became more dangerous and my self-injurious behavior became very addictive to me. I was severely addicted to my ritual of self-injurious behavior and got to the point that I had to do it. The urges became too strong for me to fight any longer and I began self-harming more often and to worse and more dangerous degrees of self-harm.
One day, I accidentally cut on my arm way too deep so my blood did not ooze out of my arm but instead started pouring out of my arm. I was not attempting suicide and I did not want to die, so this caused me to panic and I called 911 immediately. By the time the ambulance and paramedics arrived the blood slowed down some, so I thought that it would eventually stop on its own and I would be fine. This was not smart thinking but my brain was not working well at the time, of course. I just didn’t want to end up back in the hospital again, so I called 911 back and told them not to come. This of course is very comical because they were en route to my home because I had seriously injured myself. I ended up having to be brought to the hospital in the ambulance once again requiring another long and unwanted hospital stay.
Because that experience scared me so much, that was the last time I engaged in my cutting behavior. However, because my self-injurious behavior had become so addictive and habit-forming to me and such an unhealthy way of coping for me that the next time I self-injured I did not cut myself, but instead burned myself over twenty times with a cigarette on my stomach to relieve my severe pain from my severe bipolar and other mental illness symptoms. The initial burning sounds like it would be too painful and horrific, but compared to my mental pain I had at the time, it was a relief to me. My burns were severe second degrees burns and I should have received medical care to treat and heal them but I knew they would throw me back in the hospital and I didn’t want to go back there again, so I treated myself which was not the wisest thing to do, of course. The huge problem with burning myself was that the healing process was excruciating and very slow and long. After that, I have never engaged in self-injurious behavior again.
Even though I was highly addicted to my rituals and my self-injurious behavior I had to stop. Thoughts filled my mind often to self-harm again, but because of the danger and horrific consequences I experienced I never self-injured again, nor will I ever do it again. Since I had become so addicted to my self-injurious behavior, it took many years and effort and strength to fight off the strong urges that were still flooding my mind. Thank God I am finally free of any urges to self-harm. It took two blessings in disguise to get me to finally stop and I know I am lucky to be alive, again.
Self-injury or self-injurious behavior is also termed self-mutilation, self-harm or self-abuse. It doesn’t matter what words you choose to use to name this dangerous behavior, the results and definition are the same. The behavior is defined as the deliberate, repetitive, impulsive, non-lethal harming of oneself.
The intentions of self-harm are non-lethal, but the results can be lethal if the behavior is done more severely than was intended or if severe injuries are left medically untreated. I was just one of the lucky and blessed ones as I survived my many years of dangerous self-harm.
Self-harm is a very dangerous and unwise and unhealthy coping mechanism that should never be started or done. I used the behavior of self-harm many years ago to distract me from my thoughts and mind and life and help reduce the severe pain from my bipolar 1 disorder. Self-harm helped to distract me from the pain I was living with at that moment, but the relief of my pain and the distraction never lasted long afterwards and it of course did not cure my pain. Instead, afterwards I felt shamed and hatred toward myself for the behavior I just performed on my body that has left many ugly permanent scars on many different places on my body. My scars will always be and are a constant reminder of my torturous past, but I have finally begun the process of accepting my permanent lifelong tattoo scars on my body as a reminder of the many obstacles I have overcome, how God saved my life and that I am a strong bipolar and mental illness survivor.
When you ooze you lose. Stop self-harm.
Here are links to two other posts I wrote on self-injurious behavior.
*Trigger Warning* Scars are Tattoos From God
Below my copyright information is some excellent information about self-injury behavior written by Mayo Clinic Staff
Copyright © By Susan Walz and myloudbipolarwhispers.com – All written content and personal artwork is © myloudbipolarwhispers.com and Susan Walz. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner/artist is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to My Loud Bipolar Whispers and/or Susan Walz with appropriate and specific directions to the original content.
written by Mayo Clinic Staff
Nonsuicidal self-injury, often simply called self-injury, is the act of deliberately harming the surface of your own body, such as cutting or burning yourself. It’s typically not meant as a suicide attempt. Rather, this type of self-injury is an unhealthy way to cope with emotional pain, intense anger and frustration.
While self-injury may bring a momentary sense of calm and a release of tension, it’s usually followed by guilt and shame and the return of painful emotions. Although life-threatening injuries are usually not intended, with self-injury comes the possibility of more serious and even fatal self-aggressive actions.
Getting appropriate treatment can help you learn healthier ways to cope.
There’s no one best way to treat self-injuring behavior, but the first step is to tell someone so you can get help. Treatment is based on your specific issues and any related mental health conditions you might have, such as depression. Treating self-injury behavior can take time, hard work and your own desire to recover. Because self-injury can become a major part of your life, you may need treatment from a mental health professional experienced in self-injury issues.
If the self-injury behavior is associated with a mental health disorder, such as depression or borderline personality disorder, the treatment plan focuses on that disorder, as well as the self-injury behavior.
Psychotherapy known as talk therapy or psychological counseling, psychotherapy can help you:
- Identify and manage underlying issues that trigger self-injuring behavior
- Learn skills to better manage distress
- Learn how to regulate your emotions
- Learn how to boost your self-image
- Develop skills to improve your relationships and social skills
- Develop healthy problem-solving skills
Several types of individual psychotherapy may be helpful, such as:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps you identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, positive ones
- Dialectical behavior therapy, a type of CBT that teaches behavioral skills to help you tolerate distress, manage or regulate your emotions, and improve your relationships with others
- Psychodynamic psychotherapy, which focuses on identifying past experiences, hidden memories or interpersonal issues at the root of your emotional difficulties through self-examination, guided by a therapist
- Mindfulness-based therapies, which help you live in the present, appropriately perceive the thoughts and actions of those around you to reduce your anxiety and depression, and improve your general well-being
In addition to individual therapy sessions, family therapy or group therapy also may be recommended.
There are no medications to specifically treat self-injuring behavior. However, if you’re diagnosed with a mental health condition, such as depression or an anxiety disorder, your doctor may recommend antidepressants or other medications to treat the underlying disorder that’s associated with self-injury. Treatment for these disorders may help you feel less compelled to hurt yourself.
If you injure yourself severely or repeatedly, your doctor may recommend that you be admitted to a hospital for psychiatric care. Hospitalization, often short-term, can provide a safe environment and more intensive treatment until you get through a crisis. Day treatment programs also may be an option.
Signs and symptoms of self-injury may include:
- Fresh cuts, scratches, bruises or other wounds
- Excessive rubbing of an area to create a burn
- Keeping sharp objects on hand
- Wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather
- Difficulties in interpersonal relationships
- Persistent questions about personal identity, such as “Who am I?” “What am I doing here?”
- Behavioral and emotional instability, impulsivity and unpredictability
- Statements of helplessness, hopelessness or worthlessness
Forms of self-injury
Self-injury usually occurs in private and is done in a controlled or ritualistic manner that often leaves a pattern on the skin. Examples of self-harm include:
- Cutting (cuts or severe scratches with a sharp object)
- Burning (with lit matches, cigarettes or hot, sharp objects like knives)
- Carving words or symbols on the skin
- Hitting or punching
- Piercing the skin with sharp objects
- Pulling out hair
- Persistently picking at or interfering with wound healing
Most frequently, the arms, legs and front of the torso are the targets of self-injury, but any area of the body may be used for self-injury. People who self-injure may use more than one method to harm themselves. Becoming upset can trigger an urge to self-injure. Many people self-injure only a few times and then stop. But for others, self-injury can become a long-term, repetitive behavior. Although rare, some young people may self-injure in public or in groups to bond or to show others that they have experienced pain.
When to see a doctor
If you’re injuring yourself, even in a minor way, or if you have thoughts of harming yourself, reach out for help. Any form of self-injury is a sign of bigger issues that need to be addressed. Talk to someone you trust, such as a friend, loved one, health care provider, spiritual leader or a school official who can help you take the first steps to successful treatment. While you may feel ashamed and embarrassed about your behavior, you can find supportive, caring and nonjudgmental help.
When a friend or loved one self-injures
If you have a friend or loved one who is self-injuring, you may be shocked and scared. Take all talk of self-injury seriously. Although you might feel that you’d be betraying a confidence, self-injury is too big a problem to ignore or to deal with alone. Here are some ways to help.
- Your child.You can start by consulting your pediatrician or other health care professional who can provide an initial evaluation or a referral to a mental health specialist. Don’t yell at your child or make threats or accusations, but do express concern.
- Teenage friend.Suggest that your friend talk to parents, a teacher, a school counselor or another trusted adult.
- Gently encourage the person to seek medical and mental health treatment.
When to get emergency help
If you’ve injured yourself severely or believe your injury may be life-threatening, or if you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.Also consider these options if you’re having suicidal thoughts:
- Call your mental health specialist.
- Call a suicide hotline number — in the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
- Seek help from your primary doctor or other health care provider.
- Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
- Contact a spiritual leader or someone else in your faith community.
There’s no one single or simple cause that leads someone to self-injure. In general:
- Nonsuicidal self-injury is usually the result of an inability to cope in healthy ways with psychological pain.
- The person has a hard time regulating, expressing or understanding emotions. The mix of emotions that triggers self-injury is complex. For instance, there may be feelings of worthlessness, loneliness, panic, anger, guilt, rejection, self-hatred or confused sexuality.
Through self-injury, the person may be trying to:
- Manage or reduce severe distress or anxiety and provide a sense of relief
- Provide a distraction from painful emotions through physical pain
- Feel a sense of control over his or her body, feelings or life situations
- Feel something, anything, even if it’s physical pain, when feeling emotionally empty
- Express internal feelings in an external way
- Communicate depression or distressful feelings to the outside world
- Be punished for perceived faults
Certain factors may increase the risk of self-injury, including:
- Most people who self-injure are teenagers and young adults, although those in other age groups also self-injure. Self-injury often starts in the early teen years, when emotions are more volatile and teens face increasing peer pressure, loneliness, and conflicts with parents or other authority figures.
- Having friends who self-injure.People who have friends who intentionally harm themselves are more likely to begin self-injuring.
- Life issues.Some people who injure themselves were neglected or abused (sexually, physically or emotionally) or experienced other traumatic events. They may have grown up and still remain in an unstable family environment, or they may be young people questioning their personal identity or sexuality. Some people who self-injure are socially isolated.
- Mental health issues.People who self-injure are more likely to be highly self-critical and be poor problem-solvers. In addition, self-injury is commonly associated with certain mental disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and eating disorders.
- Excessive alcohol or drug use.People who harm themselves often do so while under the influence of alcohol or recreational drugs.
Self-injury can cause a variety of complications, including:
- Worsening feelings of shame, guilt and low self-esteem
- Infection, either from wounds or from sharing tools
- Permanent scars or disfigurement
- Severe, possibly fatal injury
- Worsening of underlying issues and disorders, if not adequately treated
Although self-injury is not usually a suicide attempt, it can increase the risk of suicide because of the emotional problems that trigger self-injury. And the pattern of damaging the body in times of distress can make suicide more likely.
Copyright © Mayo Clinic Staff