Self-harm is the urge or impulse to intentionally hurt oneself. Self-harm is often used as a coping mechanism when a person is experiencing emotional distress. Many people often associate self-harm with cutting, but there are a number of ways people engage in self-injury. It is important to note that self-harm is not a mental illness; it is a behavior caused by an inability to cope or manage one’s emotions and this may be indicative of an underlying mental illness such as depression or borderline personality disorder.
Self-harm can be a damaging cycle in more ways than one. A person may self-harm in order to gain release from their emotional distress but the wounds may later cause feelings of guilt or disgust, which only adds to the person’s negative built-up emotions. If you or someone you know self-harms or is at risk for this kind of behavior, it is important to seek professional help right away. Therapy or medication may be helpful treatments in minimizing a person’s impulse to self-harm. Often it can be helpful to speak to a doctor about other medical conditions causing the behavior so that those may be treated as well. If not treated or stopped, self-harming behavior can cause permanent physical damage or even result in death.