Self Harm Awareness Month
March is National Self Harm Awareness Month. Self-harm, or self-mutilation, is defined as a self-inflicted and deliberate injury to the body tissue that causes pain, bruising or bleeding without any suicidal intent and not for purposes that are considered socially acceptable like tattooing or body piercing. One in five women and one in seven men engages in self harm each year, with the majority of cases beginning in teen or pre-adolescent years. Because those who self-harm tend to be extremely secretive with their behaviors and go to great lengths to conceal their injuries, most instances of self harm go unreported.
Unfortunately, self harm and addiction often go hand-in-hand. Substance abuse in general is the most extreme form of self harm. Substance abuse has a highly dangerous and diminishing effect on the body and mind of an individual. Aside from the known physical effects addiction takes on the body, doing drugs and abusing alcohol completely offsets the brain’s natural dopamine, serotonin, and endorphin levels, which can cause serious mental shifts and changes in behavior. An extreme buildup of emotions such as anxiety, self-loathing, frustration, anger, and depression can cause individuals to seek an alternative outlet, often in the form of self harm. Most individuals who self harm are attempting to relieve their emotional pain by causing themselves physical pain.
Those who self harm in their teen years also have a proclivity towards abusing drugs and alcohol later on. When self harm is being used as an emotional outlet it can be all too easy to carry these habits into early adulthood. As they grow older, these individuals begin to seek alternative means of “escape,” often turning to drugs and alcohol. Because most cases of self harm go unreported, it can be difficult to detect an at-risk individual. Some signs and symptoms of self-injury may include:
Wearing concealing clothing even in warm temperatures (long sleeves, pants)
- Carrying sharp objects on their person
- Spending long periods of time alone
- Fresh cuts, scars, bruises, or burns
- Negative self-talk
- Difficulty managing emotions
Self harm is often the result of some form of mental illness, such as anxiety or depression. The coexistence of a substance abuse disorder with mental illness is called dual diagnosis, or co-occurring disorders. When an individual suffers from co-occurring disorders it is important that treatment addresses both conditions to ensure successful recovery. Patients with dual diagnosis are known for relapse because their mental illness was overlooked in previous treatment.
A New Start, Inc. specializes in dual diagnosis treatment, and our skilled therapists and clinicians offer a wide variety of therapies including 12-Step, Trauma, Family Systems, Cognitive Behavioral, as well as Individual and Group Therapy Sessions. For more information please call 1.844.TALK.ANS.