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Recognizing the Signs of Self-harm for Prompt Intervention

Counseling for teens harming themselves , Fayetteville NC, self-harm counseling for teenagers Fayetteville, NC, self-esteem counseling for teens near me

Recognizing the Signs of Self-harm for Prompt Intervention


What is self-harm or self-injury? It is an unhealthy behavior that involves the intentional harming of oneself. Experts believe that people who self-harm have no intention to end life. Rather, the behavior can be considered as a manifestation of internal turmoil. This is the basis of the alternative term – “non-suicidal self-injury or NSSI.”

Why do people commit NSSI?  Self-harm is committed by many self-harming people because it creates a temporary escape. Unfortunately, it isn’t a behavior that can just be stopped, particularly among adolescents. In fact, the hurt and many other unwanted emotions – shame, guilt, fear, grief, and/or sadness – can come back immediately soon after, often with a renewed vengeance. This means that the feelings can return with stronger manifestations. 

It is widely held by experts that suicide and self-harm are different from each other. Be aware, however, that the latter may still lead to serious repercussions, including accidental death. Hence, even when self-harmers do not mean to endanger their lives, fatal injuries can be a real possibility. They are vulnerable, especially the teenagers. This is among the important reasons why being able to spot the signs of self-harm is important.


How to Recognize the Signs

Helping people who are committing self-harm is difficult. For one, spotting the signs of self-harm is challenging because it is often done in secrecy – in the bathrooms or their bedrooms. They also go to great lengths to conceal their scars and marks. They are generally good at showing a happy front to cover their confusion and internal turmoil. Spotting the signs of NSSI promptly is important if you wish to help your loved one before the negative emotions worsen.

What is the “alarming sign/s” that self-harming people usually manifest or that can give away their secret/NSSI? According to the Mayo Clinic the signs and symptoms of self-injury to watch out for are:


  • Scars
  • Fresh cuts, scratches, bruises or other wounds
  • Excessive rubbing of an area to create a burn
  • Keeping sharp objects on hand
  • Wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather
  • Difficulties in interpersonal relationships
  • Persistent questions about personal identity, such as “Who am I?” “What am I doing here?”
  • Behavioral and emotional instability, impulsivity and unpredictability
  • Statements of helplessness, hopelessness or worthlessness


Forms of NSSI

There are several forms of NSSI. One form is “cutting.” Cutting the skin is committed by the majority of self-harmers, ranging from 70 to 90 percent, says the Mental Health America. Second comes “head banging or hitting,” which ranges between 21 to 44 percent. “Burning” comes as third at 15 to 35 percent. 

“Other forms of self-injury include excessive scratching to the point of drawing blood, punching self or objects, infecting oneself, inserting objects into body openings, drinking something harmful (like bleach or detergent), and breaking bones purposefully.” These imply that self-harmers can hurt themselves in diverse ways. Quite frequently, it is their arms, legs and torso that are hurt. Body tattooing and piercing are traditional arts that are being given contemporary importance. If these are being practiced in extreme or excessive terms, pay attention. These could also be forms of NSSI.  

Self-harm is generally done in private. There are, however, occasions when a youngster may flaunt it or perform it like a ritual along with peers. It could be a way to show off their courage or to counter/change an impression. It could be an effort to gain acceptance and/or respect. It is important that you do not take the matter lightly. If the behavior is noticeably becoming worse or becoming persistent, pay attention because the one committing it could be “addicted” to the pain. It is best to seek professional help.


The Dangers of NSSI

Self-harm is not to be underestimated. The number of people committing NSSI is significantly high, particularly among youngsters. It is widely believed that it starts as early as puberty, blowing up with more intensity during adolescence. This developmental phase is critical because this is the time when they are more vulnerable, being exposed to many changes and challenges – physical, physiological, emotional, social and academic. This is supported by the fact that as many as 15 percent of adolescents are self-harming. Most notable is the fact that his figure is still rising.

Your child/teen may also pick up the behavior from their self-harming peers and friends. They may become weak and vulnerable if they are having a tough time in their lives. They can also be rendered susceptible when they have an unsupportive environment at home and/or an introverted personality. Being gripped by an emotional/behavioral condition – depression, anxiety, ADHD, OD, etc. – as well as substance abuse can likewise increase the vulnerability of self-harming people (Pls. link to: SAN17-013 – Spotting the Signs of Self Harm for Early Intervention). Thus, if you have an adolescent child, it would be valuable to meet and know their pals and associates.

There other possible risks. Their feelings of low self-esteem, guilt, shame, etc. can deepen. Their cuts/wounds and resulting medical conditions from sharing cutting tools can worsen or become infected.  They can develop ugly scars or be permanently disfigured. They may “accidentally” hurt themselves more than intended, resulting in lethal or fatal injuries. NSSI may also complicate or cause emotional issues. At worst, they can become addicted to the pain coming from self-inflicted injuries which can increase their risk for suicide.


Self-harm as an “Addictive” Behavior

Why is self-harm a behavior that’s difficult to break? The answer lies in its addictive nature. When the skin is cut or burned, the head is banged, the hair pulled, etc., the physical pain creates a distraction and takes their thoughts away from inner pain or emotional hurt. The feeling of escape entices self-harmers to resort to the act again and again.

Experts are divided into using the word “addictive.” Those who favor the use of the word believe that it is appropriate because the harming behavior is difficult to stop, and they tend to commit self-harm repeatedly. The addiction to self-harm is considered a form of “behavioral addiction” and can lead to an ongoing ritual or pattern, even when they are aware that it isn’t a healthy behavior. Those who view addiction as being triggered by the use of a substance – alcohol, drugs, nicotine, etc. – argue that the term is not appropriate. It is also being opposed because of the negative connotation it carries.


Call for Help Today

For some struggling with emotional issues, self-harm can be a way to take their mind off their undesirable feelings. It is a behavior that deserves attention because it brings on more harm and hurt. The false sense of relief is only transient. This is because it isn’t actually addressing the underlying issues. To calmly put an end to this behavior and the surrounding issues, it would be productive to seek the help of an expert – a therapist/counselor independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC.

NSSI is seldom committed to be noticed or to punish themselves. Often, it is a response to an overwhelming emotional issue that needs attention. Trivializing it won’t help. If your child is exhibiting the telltale signs, seek help with haste. If you are injuring yourself, know that it can become worse. Living healthily without self-injury is possible. Take the first step – call to get the right help now. Call CCS- North Fayetteville Office today!

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