Self-injury: What it is and Why Some People Do It

Self-injury is a disorder in which some people inflict physical harm or injury upon themselves. Sometimes it is called self-mutilation, self-harm, self-cutting and many other names.

People who inflict injury upon themselves are attempting to alter a mood state by damaging the tissues of their body. This is done by cutting, burning, hitting themselves with a hard object, biting, pinching, picking the skin and even pulling their hair out. These actions can occur in either a good mood state or a bad mood state. Some people self-injure to “bring them back down to reality.”

Harming one’s self for sexual satisfaction, to fit in with their peers, body decoration, a spiritual act or to feel cool is NOT considered a self-injury disorder. It is usually considered a disorder if the acts of injury are repetitive and if the person feels a sense of relief or release after such an act is performed.

Some people who self-injure say they perform these acts because they are feeling emotionally overwhelmed and harming themself brings a sense of calm and control again. They may still feel bad, but the panicky feeling is no longer there, leaving them with a calmer, more peaceful disposition.

That seems to be why self-harm is so addictive, because it works. They find it to be a quick, easy way to get relief. It’s a way of coping with overwhelming stress. Many feel like it’s their only alternative to suicide.

There is help for people who harm themselves. Several self-help websites are available and any emergency room physician will direct someone who is using this coping mechanism to an appropriate counselor or physician who specializes in such disorders.

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