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Self Injury Awareness Information

  • Published: 2009-01-31 (Revised/Updated 2010-09-27) : Author: Thomas C. Weiss
  • Synopsis: Information on self injury most forms of self harm are superficial or moderate although there are some extreme forms.

Main Document

Self-Injury is known by several names, such as Self-Harm, Self-Mutilation, Deliberate Self Harm, Self-Injury, or, 'Cutting.' Self-Injury is more common than many people think, and one-percent of the population is involved with Self-Injury.

Most forms of Self-Injury are either superficial or moderate in nature, although there are some extreme forms of it. Self-Injury does not involve a conscious attempt to kill one's self; although it does involve a deliberate physical injury to one's self. Unlike intentional acts such as excessive drinking and smoking, Self-Injury includes acts of self-harm that are done without the intention of harming one's self to such an extent.

The act of Self-Injury usually involves physically harming one's self through the use of a razor, knife, or some other sharp object. The person may bruise themselves, by punching themselves or hitting themselves with something. They may burn themselves, resulting in a mark lasting more than an hour, or in a blister.

Many people believe that those who self-harm are suicidal. Persons who self-injure are not involved in a conscious intent to commit suicide. 'Briefing Number Two: Bristol Crisis Service - Training on Self Harm,' presents research findings which indicate that among women who have been involved in surveys regarding self-harm, coping with events in life on a day-to-day basis is what self-injury is about; not suicide.

Another item titled, 'Why Do People Deliberately Injure Themselves,' presents evidence that persons who self-injure do it because doing so both drastically and quickly calms their body when they face either an overwhelming situation or strong emotions. People who have survived abuse have different motivations for self-injury. Some of these motivations include a potential addiction to crisis behavior as a result of repeated trauma during childhood, self-injury as an escape from a feeling of, 'numbness,' or a continuation of a pattern of abuse involving punishing themselves for being, 'bad.' People may self-injure as a means of fighting off a sense of dissociation or depersonalization, or to otherwise, 'ground,' themselves.

The majority of people involved in self-injury are women who have been abused, but there are people who self-injure that have not been abused. There are also men who self-injure. There are many women and survivors of abuse who do not self-injure. The fact that a woman or other person has been abused does not mean that they will necessarily self-injure as well. Self-injury is associated with several diagnoses, including Dissociative Disorders, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Eating Disorders, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Anxiety Disorders.

Persons who self-injure are many times misunderstood by healthcare workers. People who self-injure have reported being treated poorly by healthcare workers such as counselors, and doctors and nurses in emergency rooms. Police officers and others are among others in society that persons who self-injure report being treated poorly by. In an effort to help people in society, healthcare workers, and others, as well as to dispel myths associated with self-injury; Self-Injury: Help, Outreach, and Public Education (Self-Injury: HOPE) designated March 1st as, 'National Self-Injury Awareness Day.' On March 1st, persons whose lives have been affected by self-injury distribute information to healthcare professionals, as well as to mental health organizations and their associated professionals with the goal of raising self-injury awareness, and dispelling misconceptions.

Myths About Self-Injury

MYTH: "Self-Injury is a failed suicide attempt"

FACT: Most people who self-injure who attempt suicide use means that are completely different from the methods they have used to self-injure. There have been a number of studies revealing that although persons who self-injure may be at higher risk of suicide; they distinguish between acts of self-injury and attempted suicide.

MYTH: "People who self-injure are, 'crazy,' and should be locked up."

FACT: Hospitalizing a person who self-injures is a form of over-reaction to fear for their well-being. The overwhelming majority of people who self-injure do so in ways that are not life-threatening, and the injuries often do not require medical treatment. Hospitalizing a person who self-injures can actually do more harm than good because the hospital environment puts the person in a position of loss of control, facing what may be to them overwhelming emotions, and promote further self-injury behaviors. Medical personnel or counselors who involuntarily place a person who self-injures in a hospital risk damaging the relationship they may have established with their client through eroding communication, trust, honesty, and any sense of rapport.

MYTH: "People who self-injure are just trying to get attention."

FACT: The majority of people who self-injure go through a great deal of trouble in order to hide their wounds and scars. Many people who self-injure consider it to be a shameful secret. They don't want their self-injury to be discovered; in fact - they often dread anyone discovering it. If a person is feeling enough distress in their life, or feeling so ignored that they would self-injure; something is definitely wrong in their life, and it is not the time to make moral judgments concerning their behavior.

MYTH: "Self-injury is an attempt to manipulate other people."

FACT: Most people who self-injure do not do so in an attempt to manipulate other people, although some do. For persons who use self-injury as a means to manipulate others, it is important to concentrate on what it is the person wants, and how you can interact with them appropriately. There are most likely some deeper issues that need approaching, as well as working on.

MYTH: "Only persons with Borderline Personality Disorder self-injure."

FACT: There are eight other disorders that include self-injury as a criterion. Borderline Personality Disorder is a disorder that has self-injury as a criterion; true - but there are several other disorders with self-injury as a criterion. It is also true that not everyone who has Borderline Personality Disorder self-injures, and not everyone who self-injures has Borderline Personality Disorder.

MYTH: "If the wounds aren't, 'bad enough,' self-injury isn't serious."

FACT: Physical wounds and emotional trauma are two different things entirely. People have individual methods of self-injury, as well as different tolerance for pain. The only way to find out how much distress a person is in is to ask them. It is important to ask; do not make assumptions where the person's distress is concerned.

MYTH: "Only teenage girls self-injure."

FACT: There is an email list associated with self-injury known as the, 'Bodies Under Siege, ' email list. 'Bodies Under Siege,' has members from both genders, on six continents. The members range in age from fourteen to sixty years. The email list is there for persons who feel they have no other way to cope. 'Bodies Under Siege,' is not just a, 'teen-age,' or, 'just American,' email list; it involves people from around the world.


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