Self-harming behaviors are on the rise among teens and young adults, with self-injury prevalence in the U.S. at 18% and 5.9% respectively. Among adults, self-inflicted injury is most often seen in adults between the ages of 18-25. Self-harm is not necessarily related to an increased risk of suicide, as it is primarily a coping method for managing frustration, stress, or emotional strife, and not a desire to end one’s life.
Self-harming behaviors include any form of self-injury or mutilation that causes pain or discomfort, including cutting, skin carving, scratching, biting, pinching, picking scabs off so wounds cannot heal, burning, head-banging, punching or hitting oneself, pulling one’s hair, or bone breaking. Of all these forms of self-harm, cutting is the most prevalent, at 70%.
What Causes Self-Harming Behaviors?
Self-injury is a symptom of an existing mental health issue, such as depression, anxiety, personality disorder, bipolar disorder, trauma disorder, or an eating disorder. The self-harm activities somehow provide a sense of release from the symptoms of the mental health disorder. Others may inflict self-injury because they feel numb and emotionless, so the pain of the injuries evokes some sense of feeling. Some who practice self-harm may simply have undeveloped coping skills, using the self-inflicted pain to help them process frustration, sadness, or anger.
Signs of Self-harm
Contrary to what many assume, those who inflict self-injury are not hoping to draw attention to themselves. On the contrary, most people who practice self-harm do so very privately, and usually go to extremes to hide the behavior. For example, they may wear long-sleeved shirts during extremely hot weather rather than expose the evidence of their disordered behaviors. Because of this, it is not easy to identify self-harming behaviors until they are more established and a loved one or coworker eventually notices the wounds or scars.
Some of the signs of self-harming behaviors include:
Isolating from family or friends
Unexplained wounds, bruises, injuries, or scars
Blood stains on clothing, carpet, towels
Wearing inappropriate clothing based on weather
Finding razors, nails, candles or other items that may be used to inflict injury
Seeing bald patches in the hair
Residential Treatment for Self-Harm
Because this type of behavior is a sign of mental distress, a residential treatment program may be an excellent level of care where a thorough psychological evaluation and assessment can be conducted. Once the core mental health disorder is diagnosed, a tailored treatment plan can be designed to help treat both the underlying mental health condition as well as the self-harming behaviors.
Inpatient treatment will involve a multi-modal approach, carefully designed to address all aspects of the individual’s mental health needs. This will include:
Psychotherapy. One-on-one meetings with a psychotherapist to explore the underlying emotional issues driving the self-harming behavior and which may be contributory to the core mental health disorder
Group therapy. Small group meetings lead by a therapist who will guide discussion among other clients, allowing for sharing feelings and experiences
Medication. Medications to help manage the mental health disorder may include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, or mood-stabilizers
Experiential therapies. Adjunctive activities such as art and music therapy, journaling, mindfulness training can augment the effects of traditional therapy
Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR). If trauma is involved, EMDR is an adjunctive therapy that helps desensitize the individual to the trauma
Relaxation skills. Deep-breathing techniques, yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy can help the individual manage emotions
Interpersonal coping skills. Learn how to effectively communicate, set boundaries, and other interpersonal tools that can enhance coping skills
Residential and Outpatient Programs for Self Harm Disorders
Elevation Behavioral Health offers treatment options for those struggling with self harm conditions. Call our Admissions team to learn more at 888-561-0868.