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seeking help for self-harm

March is Self-Harm Awareness Month. There are many aspects of self-harm that most people try to keep hidden, out of a sense of shame or fear. Self-harm behaviors can be linked to mental health issues and may lead to substance use issues. These behaviors can even lead to unintentional suicide. If you are engaging in self-jury, regardless of the reason, seeking help for self-harm is critical to your health and well-being.

Overcoming the Stigma of Self-Harm

One of the major obstacles to seeking help for self-harm is the stigma of the behaviors and the physical scars it can leave behind. Researchhas found that up to 25 percent of young people engage in self-injury. Even though self-harm is a risk factor for suicide and can be associated with depression, anxiety, and a history of abuse, many people do not seek help because of concern about the stigma.

The stigma apparently affects males at higher levels, who may feel a higher personal responsibility for their self-harm behavior. Higher levels of danger and manipulation have also been found to result from the stigma of self-harm. The research suggests that the stigma, and the attitudes associated with it, may primarily come from an individual’s peers.

Internally, though, self-harm can cause feelings of shame. In particular, the physical scars that result from cutting or burning can be permanent. If you have such scars, you might take special care to try to conceal them. For example, you might wear long sleeves or pants during the warmer weather. Doing drugs or drinking while engaging in self-harm can increase the risk of a more severe injury, which can add to your sense of shame.

Self-Harm and Mental Illness

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) emphasizes that self-harm is not a mental illness. Rather, it is a behavior that indicates you may need better coping skills for dealing with the struggles and challenges in your life. Some mental health issues have been associated with self-harm behaviors, though, including depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders.

Your self-injury urges may start with an overwhelming sense of frustration, anger, or pain. When you are not sure how to deal with these emotions, self-harm may seem like a good way to find release. Self-injuring can actually stimulate your pain-killing hormones, known as endorphins, temporarily improving your mood. On the other hand, if you are suffering emotional numbness, you may engage in self-harm just to be able to feel something.

The shame and guilt generally always returns after a self-injury incident though. Then you may get caught up in a cycle. Your shame could lead to more intense negative feelings and that can cause you to hurt yourself again. Seeking help for self-harm is critical to ending this cycle and to healing, physically and mentally.


Self-injury can cause serious issues and could even potentially lead to unintentional suicide. Treatment is effective, helping you understand the underlying causes behind your self-harm behaviors and learn how to develop better, healthier coping skills. When self-harm is accompanied by substance abuse, treatment will involve addressing both your mental health and your addiction.

Reaching out to a qualified professional is the first step. There are many effective treatment programs that can help you feel like you are in control of your life again, as you overcome your perceived need for the destructive self-harm behaviors. Treatment is typically a combinationof therapy and medication.

The medication can help in the management of your racing thoughts, depression, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, or anxiety. Therapy, including cognitive/behavioral therapy can you understand and manage your destructive thoughts and behaviors. Therapy may involve keeping a journal or behavior log as a useful tool for regaining self-control. When self-harm interferes with your relationships, interpersonal therapy can help you develop those insights and skills as well.

Hope by the Sea is Here to Help

When you are struggling with self-harm and need more appropriate and healthier coping skills, the professionals at Hope by the Sea are here to help. We are a southern California mental health and addiction treatment center, focused on helping men and women begin the journey of recovery from mood disorders and addiction.

We specialize in treating you as a whole individual, so you can embrace your recovery with as much support and momentum as possible. When you need help treating your mental health or substance use disorder, we offer the dual diagnosis treatment program you need. Please contact us today to learn more about our programs and services. Hope Starts Here!