In APA Tori DeAngelis told us about a new disorder was added into the DSM-V (2013) (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders), called Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI) as a “disorder that needs further study”
But before we go into that, let us back up and go back to the basics. What entails as self-harm? Self-harm can be anything from cutting yourself, to episodes of banging your head on a hard surface. These harmful actions have become, for some people, ways of dealing with distress or emotional pain. It usually helps you express feelings that might be difficult to express through words. The physical pain one feels from self-harming oneself helps to distract from the emotional pain they might be feeling. After the episode of causing physical pain to they feel better, but only temporarily. Once that pain subsides, the urge to do it all over again to escape the emotional pain comes back.
There are many ways people tend to engage in this sort of behaviour, some are more common, like cutting or burning. Some on the other hand are less obvious but pose great threat to the person, like, drinking too much, or taking too many drugs.
People often self-harm to cope with feelings they cannot express or deal with in a healthier way, or to relive a guilt they feel bad for forgetting or getting over. This gives them a sort of control. This often works as a sort of distraction from the overwhelming emotion they feel. In a study by Stallard et al., which was conducted in Midlands and South West of England, it was discovered that 27% of young adolescents’ thoughts of self-harm and 15% reported a minimum of one act of self-harm.
We are seeing a repetition here; it is often due to the lack of expressing. We need to create an environment for everyone where they can openly express themselves without being ridiculed. I won’t ask you to not judge because no matter what we say, we are judgmental creatures. But the lack of ridicule helps, and we should strive for the healthy environment where we can express. The relief felt from the actions of self-harm is short lived and often is a small step to suicidal actions.
In addition to all this the actions of self-harm aren’t something you can keep a secret forever and it is often an addictive activity. What will help is to confide in someone, find the trigger point for your actions of self-harm and finding a healthier alternative for coping.
DeAngelis, T. (2015, July). A new look at self-injury. Monitor on Psychology, 46(7). http://www.apa.org/monitor/2015/07-08/self-injury
Stallard, P., Spears, M., Montgomery, A.A. et al. Self-harm in young adolescents (12–16 years): onset and short-term continuation in a community sample. BMC Psychiatry 13, 328 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-244X-13-328