Self-harm refers to purposefully harming oneself in a physical way. Believe it or not, this coping mechanism occurs as a form of relief. People engage in self-harm to escape extreme states of emotional distress.
When a person is physically injured, their brain releases endorphins and adrenaline to help. These chemicals help us feel good to combat the pain. When a person engages in self-harm, they are utilizing these natural body responses to help them escape emotional pain. Sometimes, on some level, they may even be attempting to turn emotional pain into physical pain.
Although it may help to some degree in the moment, self-harming becomes a vicious cycle that harms in more ways than just physical. Self-harm most often occurs as cutting, burning, or hitting oneself. These behaviors obviously cause physical damage, and in extreme cases, major injury and even death can occur.
Self-harming is not a mental disorder in and of itself, but often occurs alongside other mental disorders such as depression. Treating the underlying mental issues alongside the self-harming behaviors is crucial. Exploring the underlying emotional distress and pattern of self-harming can help identify better coping mechanisms. Cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness exercises can help rewire brain pathways to help modify the self-harming behaviors into something more positive.
I offer in-person therapy and counseling in Seabrook, TX and virtual telehealth therapy for Texas residents. If you are struggling with self-harm and need help, please call or book a free 15-minute consultation today.