If you cause physical harm to your body in order to deal with overwhelming feelings, know that you have nothing to be ashamed of. It's likely that you're keeping yourself alive and maintaining psychological integrity with the only tool you have right now. It's a crude and ultimately self-destructive tool, but it works; you get relief from the overwhelming pain/fear/anxiety in your life. The prospect of giving it up may be unthinkable, which makes sense; you may not realize that self-harm isn't the only or even best coping method around.
How do I know if what I do is really self-injury?
• Do you deliberately cause physical harm to yourself to the extent of causing tissue damage (breaking the skin, bruising, leaving marks that last for more than an hour)?
• Do you cause this harm to yourself as a way of dealing with unpleasant or overwhelming emotions, thoughts, or situations (including dissociation)?
• If your self-harm is not compulsive, do you often think about SI even when you're relatively calm and not doing it at the moment?
If you answer yes, you are a self-injurer. The way you choose to hurt yourself could be cutting, hitting, burning, scratching, skin-picking, banging your head, breaking bones, not letting wounds heal, among others. You might do several of these. How you injure yourself isn't as important as recognizing that you do and what it means in your life.
What makes someone want to hurt themselves?
It's estimated that about two million people in the U.S. injure themselves in some way. The majority are teenagers or young adults with young women outnumbering young men. They are of all races and backgrounds.
Resorting to self injury is a way of both indicating that difficulties exist and is also an attempt to cope with the problems. Although harming oneself is not a constructive way of dealing with these difficulties, it may serve some of the following functions:
• to tell people something is wrong
• to legitimize feelings of pain
• to gain a sense of control
• to distract and bring a sense of relief
• to manage unacceptable feelings such as anger
• to punish oneself
• to protest
• to express shame and self hatred
• to overcome numbness and restore a capacity to feel
• to cleanse.
How can I help myself if I hurt myself?
•Know that help is available. Treatment is available for people who injure themselves. WKU students are invited to schedule confidential counseling sessions with an experienced, caring counselor. Please stop by the Counseling and Testing Center or call 745-3159 to make an appointment.
• Know you are not alone. Because so many people are self-injurers, it's likely that there are people around who can understand and can help.
• Know you can get better. This is a difficult time in your life. However, with help, you can get to the point where you don't hurt yourself anymore.
• Get help. Now is the best time to get help with this problem. If you wait, the problem will only get bigger. But if you find a way to meet it head on today, you'll be free of it and free to get on with your life. Free! A good way to be.