Why do People Self-Harm?

Most people believe that self harm is limited to teenagers who are having problems coping with school, peer groups or trouble in the home due to abuse or alcoholism in the family. The truth is that self harm happens in all age groups and economic back- grounds. The reasons are as complex as there are the numbers of people who engage in it. Some of the psychological reasons include:

  1. Low self esteem and a poor body image are high on the list for young people, as well as bullying, unwanted pregnancy, worries over gender issues and sexuality, and school pressures or physical, sexual or emotional abuse in the home. Alcohol and drug abuse may be a factor.
  2. Divorce, family breakdown and conflicts between partners in a relationship, money worries, feelings of rejection or loss of love including domestic violence.  The elderly are at the highest risk for self-harm and suicide.
  3. Serious illness in self or loved ones, career setbacks, losing a loved one through natural causes  or suicide,  money worries, isolation and loneliness are causes for self harm.
  4. Psychological factors for self-harm are explained by the following:

At the unconscious level the act of cutting may help to relive the tremendous emotional pressure that builds up and acts as a safety valve.  The act of cutting takes away through blood flow the bad feelings.  Pain suggests life when feelings have gone numb and the individual feels dead inside.  Those who feel shame because of sexual abuse and those who feel guilt because of their past may be punishing themselves and relieving overwhelming feelings  of unhappiness that nag and plague them.

Self-harm is an acknowledgement that help is needed when it’s too difficult to share feelings with anyone else. It may be a way of establishing a sense of control over everything   that’s out of control in their life.

An extreme expression of self-harm is suicidal behavior that may lack full intent because the victim is unsure of whether they want to live or die. An overdose of medication, for example, is a way of leaving  it up to fate to decide the outcome of life or death.

Self-harm is a serious indication that the individual needs professional intervention and when it’s discovered immediate action should be taken.

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