Self-harm is a dangerous coping mechanism used to deal with difficult emotional situations, like abuse or a serious mental health condition. Contrary to what some may believe, it is not a show put on for attention, or necessarily a cry for help. Sometimes, the person may actually feel good when inflicting harm on themselves and feel a rush of endorphins. Other times, the pain is used to dull or distract from greater pain somewhere else.
It should always be taken seriously, but not treated as an act of disobedience, stupidity, or attempted suicide. If someone you know has been harming themselves, approach them with love and support and tell them you want to help. Let them know there are places they can go, like Chicago Lakeshore Hospital, which has specific programs designed to address the root causes and provide individualized treatment.
Learn How to Recognize the Signs of Self Harm
The best way to help someone who may be at risk is to learn how to recognize the signs of self-harm. If you notice a pattern of any of the following behaviors, you may need to seek help.
Behavioral signs of self-harm may include wearing long sleeves or pants even in hot weather, frequent injuries brushed off as accidents, isolation, withdrawal from activities they once enjoyed, or impulsive behavior.
Physical symptoms may present as a variety of injuries. Pay attention to the reasons given and the frequency with which they occur. Common visual signs include bruises, scars, scratches, cuts, and even broken bones or patches of hair missing. A common element is that the injuries are unexplained, frequent, or similar in nature. Scratches and cuts often look like something a cat may have done, or are intentional shapes or words.
These signs of self-harm may include feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, guilt, shame, or disgust. They may also express a numbness or absence of feeling, or exhibit mood swings, instability, or anxiety.
Treatment & Recovery
Self-harm often coexists with another condition in need of treatment, such as depression, anxiety, addiction, or emotional trauma. A simple visit to the doctor or emergency room won’t have lasting or effective results in stopping the harmful behavior. The person engaging in self-harming behaviors needs to commit to change and be willing to undergo treatment via therapy. They need to address the underlying condition and learn healthier ways to cope with the pain it causes. They also need a strong support system, which includes a team of doctors and therapists, as well as friends and family.
Contact Chicago Lakeshore Hospital for more information about care and treatment for individuals exhibiting signs of self-harm. Find out what makes us different, and how we provide patients with the tools and support they need for recovery.