What is Self Harm or Self Injury?

Inflicting self harm or self injury is a mental condition when one derives pleasure or satisfaction by deliberately injuring ones own body. Webmd.com describes self harm or self injury as “Self injury, also called self-harm, self-mutilation, or simply cutting, is defined as any intentional injury to one’s own body. Usually, self-injury leaves marks or causes tissue damage.”

Types of Self Harm or Self Injury

According to Webmd.com, Self-injury can involve any of the following behaviors:

  • Cutting with a sharp object like razors, blades etc.
  • Burning (or “branding” with hot objects) like cigarattes
  • Excessive body piercing or tattooing
  • Picking at skin or re-opening wounds
  • Hair-pulling
  • Head-banging
  • Hitting (with hammer or other object)
  • Bone-breaking”

The psychology behind self harm or self injury

To make it clear at the very outset here is a declaration: your child is not the only one! You must have come here with a grievous issue, which you feel, is limited only to you and your troubled child. In absolute contradiction to what most of you may feel, issues like this have been quite rampant since the beginning of unrecorded history. In a world dominated by oppressive malice and indeterminable injustices, the innocent child is often victimized until the point it makes a monster out of him.

Most monsters harm others, while the rest few painfully indulge in self-destruction. This analogy was definitely not aimed at comparing your child to a monster, but to raise the question of masochism and sadism as serious ailments among growing children. People tend to sympathize with self harming masochists while condemning the sadistic bullies. What we fail to observe is that both are the different sides of the same coin and are equally harmful. Self harm or self injury makes the child feel better when he/she is unable to cope with trying situations. Doing so helps them cope.

Why do youngsters resort to self harm or self injury?

According to Canadian Mental Health Association:

  • It helps them deal with anxiety or depression
  • It might help them overcome the emotional pain associated with loss, trauma, violence, or other difficult situations
  • It is a way ‘punish’ themselves or to remind themselves of some incident/event
  • Because they can tolerate physical pain as compared to mental pain
  • It awakens them from a certain numbness that has taken over
  • To feel a sense of euphoria
  • To establish a sense of power and control over their bodies
  • Just to make themselves feel better

Signs of self harm or self injury

  1. Unexplained cuts and burns
  2. Unexplained bruises and cut marks
  3. Wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts all the time, even in warm weather
  4. Low self-esteem and lack of confidence
  5. Irritability
  6. Social Seclusion

Helping your child overcome self harm or self harm?

  • The concept of pain and pleasure, as we know is very overlapping. It would take great philosophers and erudite psychologists to analyze that, but what you as a caring parent can analyze is the root and nature of your child’s disturbed behavior. No matter if you are harboring a bully or a victim at your home, get to the root of whatever the trouble may be. A sudden breakthrough is not advisable, for matters like this are more sensitive than you think they are and an unanticipated intervention would only jeopardize the issue further. Before dragging the child to some clinic or a renowned psychiatrist make it a point to have a one on one conversation yourself. The child needs to know and believe that you are there for her/him, through thick and thin.
  • Victims of depressive disorder suffer from seclusion and apathy towards family and surroundings. The act of inflicting self harm or self injury is evident of such chronic depression which may have its roots from emotional distress or any other psychological trauma. As mentioned earlier, on a majority children suffering from such angst are most likely to be vindictive and violent towards others while the minor category falls into the self-flagellating act. Whatever it may be, it is inseparable from self-hatred and a pervasive feeling of constant anxiety and turmoil.
  • These kids are unusually silent, secluded from company and struggle with a verbal discomfort in expressions. Since they cannot communicate their feelings and troubles they choose to vent it out by harming and mutilating themselves. The process of self-harm includes both psychological and physical injuries. So if you discover your child cutting holes into his palm with a scissor or watching murder scenes on a loop, talk to them immediately or seek the help of professionals if things get too out of hand. But most importantly, try not to be panic-stricken.
  • Your child needs your support and not your characteristic parental angst to be out of the cobweb of suffering. Devote all your time and energy into observing her actions and trace the triggering factors for such disintegration. Have a non-judgmental and compassionate approach in handling the matter and be sure to have his back in times of setbacks. All these put together go a long way in rejuvenating your child’s broken shape.

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