Tuesday, March 01, 2011

March 1st is Self Injury Awareness Day

Self-injury (SI) is any deliberate, non-suicidal behavior that inflicts physical harm on one's body to relieve emotional distress.

Self-injury does not involve a conscious intent to commit suicide, though many believe that people who harm themselves are suicidal.

People who SI are often trying to:

* Distract emotional pain
* End feelings of numbness
* Calm overwhelming feelings
* Maintaining control
* Self-punish
* Express thoughts that cannot be put into words
* Express feelings for which there are no words

Who engages in self-injury?

There is no simple portrait of a person who intentionally self-injures. This behavior is not limited by gender, race, education, age, sexual orientation, socio-economics, or religion. However, there are some commonly seen factors:

* Self-injury more commonly occurs in adolescent females.

* Many self-injurers have a history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

* Many self-injurers have co-existing problems of substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder or eating disorders.

* Self-injures tend to have been raised in families that discouraged expression of anger, and tend to lack skills to express their emotions.

* Self-injurers often lack a good social support network.

What are the types of self-injury?

* Cutting
* Burning
* Picking at skin
* Interfereing with wound healing
* Hair-pulling
* Hitting
* Scratching
* Pinching
* Biting
* Bone-breaking
* Head-banging

Self-injury is often misunderstood. Self-injurers trying to seek medical or mental health treatment frequently report being treated badly by emergency room doctors and nurses, counselors, police officers and even mental health professionals.

Finding professionals who specialize in working with self-injury is IMPERATIVE. With proper treatment, new ways of coping will be learned and slowly the cycle of hurting will end. For more information go to the American Self-Harm Information Clearinghouse.


Lynoth said...

This is a great overview, thank you for posting it. I have linked it to my Facebook and will be tweeting it throughout the day. Thank you for your efforts on behalf of this often under-recognized population.

Anonymous said...

Very helpful, I have linked this to my blog. Thanks for the great infor

Tc. Nish.

The Writing Goddess said...

Wondering if "biting" includes nail-biting? I used to bite my nails so far up that sometimes I had bleeding, and definitely had pain/self-soothing issues.

Dr. Deb said...

Hey Lynoth,
How fun to see you here on the blog. Thanks for your comments and your generous linking too!

Thank you :)

Dear Writing Goddess,
It sounds like it could include that behavior of yours. What's great is that you realize what you were doing was a self-soothing technique. I used to tear apart old towels and fabrics with my hands as a way to reduce stress. Though not a self-harming behavior, it can demonstrate an alternative way to reduce emotional distress.

KC said...

Free instant viewing video:
How to Understand and Help My Child Who Is Self-Injuring A Parent Educational Opportunity Part 1 Dr. Wendy Lader co- founder of S.A.F.E. ALTERNATIVES® and co-author of Bodily Harm: The Breakthrough Healing Program for Self-Injurers, now offers an educational Webinar for parents. Listen as the world renowned expert on self injury answers the tough questions…"What is self injury?", "Why is my child self-injuring?", "How can I help?", "Is this behavior lethal?", "What resources are available?", and so much more…. This Webinar is a PowerPoint presentation which runs approximately 33 minutes.


Wanda's Wings said...

Thanks for sharing this. So many people do realize how it is used to cope. I going to try to set up a link to your blog.

Wanda's Wings said...

I left out the "not" realize how some of us use it to cope.

Sarebear said...

I'm not sure that Panic fits that part of the cycle for me, at least not always. Not when I'm thinking of it as a reward. Hope this isn't triggering for anyone.

And that's only my very rare type. I was quite startled to learn, after not having been in therapy very long, that something I'd been doing my whole life counted as self-harm; I've always picked at (sorry if grosses you out) scabs and zits and things until they become sores and scabs and bleed and then have a hard time stopping. I was so startled to learn that this was self-harm and not just something I did unconsciously because it's very pervasive.

Geez, am I even going to post this? I don't know. I do have OCD and it "fits" very much with that, among other things about me. I am in therapy, too, although I have so much to work on we haven't spent alot of time on it, there's so much wrong with me.


Sarebear said...

The more "classic" type I didn't start until I was 32, so that is against norm.

Flannery said...

This helped me.

Doll Mistress said...

I reposted the link and the signs and symptoms with a few insights of my own.

onelongjourney said...

After feeling a lot of emotional distress in the last week, I told my therapist that I now understand self injury to some degree. The idea of taking the mind off of emotional pain by causing physical pain is not something I've thought about before.

Luckily -she didn't freak out.

jumpinginpuddles said...

i may no longer self inflict through cutting and thank god for that but now days the bulimia is the next self infliction. It is something we have struggled with for twenty years.

Thankyou for your blog on self infliction.

"""deb see recent blog on exciting job news for me"""""

dani said...

I am an active cutter and nothing works for me
I read a lot about self harm and what ways I have to stop me doing this but again ,nothing works for me
Mentally pain is hard to bear and we cannot bandage our mind when we are in a such horible pain
My pdoc is really scare when she see my cuts

Dr. Deb said...

Thanks to you all for sharing and commenting. This is a tough subject, but talking about it gets the subject out.

Anonymous said...

This post helped me a lot. I have recently fallen back into SIing after not doing it for several years. I havent told anyone..not even my therapist. I hide it and its never something that needs medical treatment. I know it makes things worse but I cant seem to stop sometimes.

HP said...

Excellent post, Deb. I'm glad you included hairpulling (trichotillomania) because that often gets overlooked.

Casdok said...

I didnt know there is a self injury day! Prob cos i live with it every day. Its the hardest thing in the world to watch your child self injure without being able to help. And people dont like to talk about it for fear of upsetting me!

stag said...

When my employee slashed herself quite by accident in the workplace, all the doctors and nurses at the clinic knew her, and treated her like dirt. I got the impression that they were thinking to themselves... "here she is again, cutting herself to get some attention." They were so set in their attitudes that when I told her it was an industrial accident, they kind of nodded their heads as if they knew that she had engineered the accident.
Only after the clinic visit, I found out that she was a cutter.


Boys like me of course don't cut themselves, or at least, not nearly as much. They ride motorcycles instead. Kills several thousand maladjusted youths every year as they seek their masculine validity. I was one of the ones that survived.

I didn't quit smoking for real until I faced myself in the mirror and asked me why I was trying to injure myself with a pack of cigarettes. Then later as I was getting fat, with a knife and fork. The little devil on your shoulder doesn't ever rest! Damn him!

Good post. Thanks for that.

Bella T. Kottman said...

Thank you for this article. At Step Up! International we work with teachers and the education sector to assist them to look beyond the self harming behavior and at the possible underlying issues and that self harm is not about attention seeking, but rather a strategy that young people use to manage emotional distress.www.stepup-international.co.uk