How is self-harm defined? What behaviours can constitute self-harm?

Self-harm refers to the intentional act of causing harm or injury to oneself. Self-harm can include cutting, burning, biting, hair-pulling, self-punching, head-banging, scratching, and skin-picking.

What are some of the reasons patients self-harm?

There is no one reason why people self-harm, and it’s not necessarily a mental health condition or a suicide warning. This behavior is often a way that individuals cope with overwhelming emotional pain and stress, including various mental health issues. Many people who self-harm feel that it helps them relieve pressure and anxiety, while others say it breaks through a state of emotional numbness.

Are there any similarities between self-harm and addiction? If so, what are they?

Self-harm and addiction are distinct conditions but can sometimes coexist or share underlying issues. In addition, they can both be compulsive behaviors. Self-harm typically involves intentional physical harm as a coping mechanism, often associated with emotional pain or distress. Addiction, on the other hand, is a complex condition where a person becomes dependent on a substance or behavior, despite attendant negative consequences. While they differ, both self-harm and addiction may be linked to mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety. Seeking professional help is crucial for understanding and effectively addressing these serious health and behavioral challenges.

What events can lead to self-harm becoming a coping mechanism?

Self-harm can be undertaken in response to both painful emotional states and/or setbacks in life. For example, people can practice self-harm in response to the emotions caused in part by breakups, illnesses and professional or financial setbacks.

What impact do you think the stigma has on people opening up about self-harm?

The strong stigma associated with self-harm make it difficult for people to share their struggle with others. This is unfortunate since it is through sharing and seeking understanding and care that people can overcome self-harm.

How would you advise someone to manage the temptation to self-harm?

It is essential for individuals engaging in self-harm to seek professional help and support to address the underlying emotional or mental health challenges.

How can we rewire our brains to resist falling into using unhealthy coping mechanisms to cope?

Therapy and medications have proven to be effective in treating people practicing self-harm. Taking concrete steps to reduce stress in your life is another effective way to reduce the chances of coping through self-harm.

How would you advise someone to support a loved one struggling with self-harm?

Short of witnessing the self-harm, or the physical scars of self-harm, the best way to know if somebody you know is self-harming is to ask them directly. This opens the door for communication and trust so that you can offer the compassion, empathy and support they need. Therapy and medication‘s have proven to be effective in the treatment of cases of self-harm.

How can we reduce the stigma around self-harm?

The only way to reduce the stigma associated with self-harm is to be open about the condition and to treat those who suffer from it in a non-judgemental manner.

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