Understanding Self-Harm

Many people think that someone who is self-harming must be suicidal. While this can sometimes be the case, other people engage in self-harm as a way to cope, not as an attempt to end their lives.

People who engage in non-suicidal self-harm (NSSH) do so for a number of different reasons, including the following:

  • A way to manage racing thoughts 
  • A reaction to having been traumatized
  • A way to bring feeling back into the body after feeling dissociated and/or numb
  • A way to avoid dealing with emotional pain
  • A way to symbolize how much pain they are feeling inside 

But what exactly is self-harm?

Self-harm can be specific to the individual, but some examples of self-harm are as follows:

  • Cutting
  • Scratching
  • Burning
  • Hitting/punching
  • Choking 
  • Pinching
  • Smacking head against a hard surface

People who engage in NSSH often struggle with intense anxiety, depression, or a history of trauma. They feel like self-harm is their only outlet and the only means of dealing with their emotional pain. More often than not, people who self-harm have a highly dysregulated nervous system and experience their feelings either very intensely or not at all. Self-harm often starts out as a choice but can quickly become a habit that can be difficult (although not impossible!) to break. There is typically an element of guilt and shame when it comes to self-harm, and many people feel the need to go to great lengths to hide their scars or wounds. 

Treatment Approach to Self-Harm

At SYTI counseling, we can help you find safer, alternative outlets for your emotional pain. We employ a heavy focus on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy techniques to help you better regulate your nervous system which in turn helps to alleviate the urges to self-harm. Additionally, we use an integrative approach to work through the anxiety, depression, and/or trauma that is contributing to the self-harm urges. 

While we do treat NSSH, we recognize that sometimes more support may be needed. Your safety is always our top priority, and so when arriving to your session we will assess the severity of your or your child’s self-harm. If we deem that it is not an appropriate fit for an outpatient setting, we will refer you or your child to a higher level of care for extra support. If we deem you or your child a good fit for outpatient therapy, we will prioritize coping skills to use instead of self-harm. 

Scheduling and More Information

If you are searching for support for self-harm, please click here to book a therapy appointment with a See You Through It Counseling therapist.

To learn more about the treatment services See You Through It Counseling provides, check out our treatment specialties.

For more information on trauma and PTSD, check out the resources below:

Self-harm | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness