By Nancy Dauphinais, LMHC

Injuring yourself on purpose by deliberately inflicting physical harm to your body is called self-injurious behavior and can include behaviors such as cutting, scratching, burning, biting, pulling out hair, burning your skin with an eraser, etc. One of the most common forms is known as “cutting” where the skin is cut with a sharp object – enough to break the skin and make it bleed.

Cutting and self-injury can be associated with mental disorders such as:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive/Compulsive disorders
  • Impulse control disorder
  • Substance use disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Deliberate self-harm is a way some people try to cope with the pain of strong emotions, intense pressure, or upsetting relationships. They may be dealing with feelings that seem too difficult to bear or bad situations they think can’t change. Some people cut because they feel desperate for relief from bad feelings or using cutting as way to express strong feelings of rage, sorrow, rejection, desperation, longing, or emptiness.

The physical dangers of deliberate self-harm include risk of losing too much blood, infection and spreading communicable diseases through shared instruments. But there are also hidden emotional dangers to cutting. It can be habit-forming and become a compulsive behavior.If you are concerned that someone you know may be engaging in deliberate self-harm, look for scratches, burns or scars usually found on the wrists, arms, legs or bellies. Individuals who cut may be wearing long-sleeved shirts or pants in warm weather and seem secretive or evasive in an effort to avoid people seeing their injuries. They may have changes in mood, veer from their normal behaviors and activities as well have problems with work, school, social or family life.

Individuals who self-injure, need help with the underlying troubles that led to these behaviors in the first place. Talking with a mental health professional can help. Walk-in assessments with no appointment necessary are available through Access Center located in building B-1 on the David Lawrence Centers main campus.

Apr 01, 2015 | Mental Health

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