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When Emotional Pain Turns into Cutting
The mere idea of someone purposely hurting themself is very difficult to grasp, often being seen as an especially stigmatized disorder. To someone on the outside, it is incomprehensible why a person would cut, burn, or cause any number of self sustained injuries to themselves. Why would anyone do that?
Self harm is an offshoot of a mental health disorder such as depression, borderline personality disorder, anxiety disorder, trauma disorder, or an eating disorder. The practice of compulsively inflicting harm on oneself is practiced as a coping mechanism to help the individual struggling with mental distress find relief from their suffering. Those who self harm carry with them feelings of deep shame and guilt about this behavior, so the coping mechanism actually compounds their suffering in the end.
When someone in emotional pain feels compelled to practice self injury they are not looking for pity or attention. In fact, these individuals will go to great lengths to hide their secret from others, even wearing long-sleeves and pants in sweltering heat in order not to reveal the scars. People who practice cutting are rarely looking to commit suicide through their behaviors either, although this subset of mental health disorders is at an overall higher risk for future suicidal behaviors.
Resorting to self injury is an extreme expression of deep-seated pain for some, and for others who feel emotionally numb or dead an attempt to feel something, anything, even if it is pain. But the resulting shame and guilt, or fear of the behavior being discovered, only makes their emotional pain worse. For individuals who have been practicing ritualistic self mutilating behaviors, self harm inpatient treatment is the appropriate setting for therapeutic intervention.
More About Self Harm and Cutting
There is a general misconception about those who engage in self harm that they are just looking for attention. On the contrary, people who hurt themselves do so as a maladaptive response to emotional pain but will then make a concerted effort to hide the evidence. Most of these individuals are teens, although some adults also resort to self harming behaviors as a coping technique.
Generally, those who engage in self injury are victims of trauma, physical or sexual abuse, or neglect. Unable to deal with the resulting emotional pain, they may begin to seek relief in this practice. Self harm isn’t limited to physically cutting or burning the body, but can include attempting to break bones, cause a head injury by banging the head against a wall, pull their hair out, or even binge drink.
The purpose of the self harming behaviors revolves around feelings of anger, emotional pain, or frustration. The individual may lack coping skills or emotional maturity, resorting to these extreme methods to process their overwhelming feelings or emotions and find some relief.
Symptoms of Self Injury and Cutting can include:
- Blood stains on clothing, towels, carpet, or in other areas in the home
- Unexplained scars or wounds
- Isolating behaviors
- Wearing clothing that is inappropriate for hot weather
- Frequent “accidents”
- Missing patches of hair
- Finding sharp objects in the person’s personal room or bathroom
- Finding remnants of candle wax on the carpet
How to Help Someone Who is Engaged in Self Harm
It is best to approach a loved one in a calm, non-judgmental manner if you suspect they are engaging in self harm. As upsetting as it is to discover someone you love is hurting themselves, it is important to be restrained when confronting them. Being overly dramatic or accusatory is not helpful, and might thwart any attempt to help the person. Instead, set aside a time to have a discussion, and encourage them to open up about what is troubling them.
Some helpful tips for how to help someone who cuts include:
- Ask them about their feelings
- Do not be judgment, be compassionate
- Do not make the person feel guilty about it
- Respect what they share with you and don’t become defensive
- Do not give ultimatums and threaten action if they don’t stop self harming
- Do gently offer them an opportunity to talk to someone and get help
Self Harm Inpatient Treatment Options
Inpatient residential facilities offers intensive programs for someone who are cutting and have self harming compulsions. The self harm program offers 24-hour care and support while they receive treatment. The self harm inpatient rehab or residential program allows a respite from the stressors that are triggering the self injuring behaviors so the individual can fully participate in focused therapy for the underlying mental health disorder. Treatment will involve a comprehensive approach of multiple therapies that are selected based on the individual’s unique clinical features, fully customized for each patient.
While in self harm inpatient treatment center and rehab, the individual will engage in various therapies, such as:
- Individual talk therapy, or psychotherapy. One on one psychotherapy can allow the therapist to delve into the back story behind the self harming behaviors, which are just a symptom of a deeper issue. Psychodynamic therapy and cognitive behavioral therapies are both useful in treating individuals who self harm.
- Group therapy. Joining with a small group of other clients who also struggle with self harm allows for productive conversations and new insights that can be gained from a group setting.
- Family therapy. Self harm affects the whole family, not just the individual with these behaviors. Generally, all family members are deeply concerned about their loved one’s emotional state and need counseling, too. Also, some dysfunctional family dynamics may be a factor in the emotional distress, so family therapy can help heal those issues as well.
- Experiential therapies. There are many adjunct therapies that can optimize the traditional therapies at the residential program. The individual will participate in a variety of activities that will augment the effects of psychotherapy and family therapy, such as art therapy, equine therapy, mindfulness training, yoga and meditation, hypnotherapy, deep breathing exercises, and journaling.
Seeking Self Harm Help and Recovery
The Treatment Specialist will connect you to a treatment center for individuals seeking a treatment program for someone with chronic self harming behaviors. The specialists are highly trained in mental health and substance abuse disorders, with over a decade of experience helping others find high quality treatment. If you or your loved one is in need of cutting and self harm inpatient treatment, contact a Treatment Specialist for help today at (866) 644-7911.