Reader Q + A | The Real Reason People Self-Harm

What’s the real reason people self-harm?
— - Anonymous

Dear Reader,

Thank you for being bold enough to ask this question! There are so many ways to answer this question, because the answer is different for everyone. Many people self-harm for the same reasons people drink or do drugs. The simple answer is to avoid the harsh reality of their circumstances. When a person who self-harms arrives to my office, they verbalize feeling a loss of control. Their feelings are so intense + they're struggling to manage them - self-harm is a way out. It's a way to control the situation without anyone else knowing unless they choose to let that person into their world. 

Many of the statements I have heard from people who self-harm have been: It felt like no one cared. It felt like the only option. I was about to lose someone important in my life, so I just reacted. It was a way of coping without "losing myself." Feeling the pain helped to shock me back to reality. 

The basic need being communicated here is a desire for someone to understand...the need to feel supported instead of dark, dreary loneliness... one client stated that the only words they would have needed to help them feel safe were, " I care." Those simple words that carry so much weight + change someone's life. I think we believe our actions don't matter when our actions are all that does matter in this world. 

Your smile is an act of kindness you offer to the world! You would genuinely be surprised at how your smiling face can brighten someone's day or help them feel better. Smiles reflect acceptance for who you are as a person. When I smile at you, I acknowledge your presence + your very existence. You do matter in this world + I see you! 

The most important thing to remember about self-harm is that you cannot bargain with someone who engages in self-harm. Hurting yourself is never an acceptable way to cope with external stressors. If you're unsure how to help them - seek professional help! Do not ignore the situation! Ignoring the symptom exacerbates the sickness! 

As self-harm continues, the small cuts don't have as much impact, so the person may escalate to more lethal means. These means could include burning, deeper cuts, intentionally exposing the skin to poisonous matter. There are many accidental deaths that occur, because someone wanted to shock themselves back to reality only to have taken things too far. Self-harm (even in the slightest form) is serious. Therapy is the recommended treatment for self-harm. While there are many therapists that treat people who self-harm, it is highly recommended to find a therapist who specializes in the treatment of people who self-harm. Self-harm is a unique concern that requires specific training in order for treatment to be effective. The issues are much more deep rooted + the concern is a lot more serious than simply asking the person to quit cold turkey. 

If you are in St. Charles, Batavia, Geneva, Aurora, Naperville or the Chicagoland area + you have a teen who struggles with self-harm - I facilitate a weekly therapy group specifically tailored towards teens dealing with self-harm. You can read more about it here!