Why don’t we take a journey to visit the mysterious world of self-harm? Let’s start off with what self-harm is: Self-harm is a deliberate and direct attempt to harm your body in an attempt to change your mood, to gain control, or to comfort yourself. One note that I want to make is that self-harm does not mean that a person is suicidal or that they want to die! While there are, of course, exceptions to this, most people that I know that use this “coping skill” have said that they don’t wish to die.
There are several ways you can harm yourself, it’s not just limited to cutting. Self-harm can include burning or scratching, amoung many other methods. Now, there are a lot of reasons as to why a person may want to harm themself. A few reasons include searching for a sense of control in their life, using it as a coping mechanism or even as a form of punishing theirself for something they did or did not do. I can’t speak for everyone on this topic, what each person feels when they harm themself differs, but I will explain what it’s like for me so that you can get a better understanding of what goes on in the mind of a person who self-harms.
For me, self-harm exhibits itself in the form of cutting and scratching. I have spent many years addicted to this behavior and only recently have I been able to gain control over the temptations. From my understanding, self-harm is addictive because it releases Endorphins and Dopamine; these make you “feel good.” When you have low levels of Serotonin (what moderates your Dopamine levels) it can cause you to be over-sensitive to Dopamine and that, from what I understand, is what causes addiction. Now, I could be wrong on this, so don’t quote me. This is just what I have gathered over the years.
Anyway, back to my battle with self-harm. Like I mentioned in the last paragraph, I have only recently been able to fight my addiction. And when I say recently, I mean really recently. I’m sure you’re wondering why I harm myself, well, there’s a couple reasons actually. My main reason is because it is the only pain that I can control and when I am having so much mental and emotional pain, physical pain is the only thing that can take it away. Of course it hurts, but I’m usually in such a trance-like state that it doesn’t bother me until later on when I take a hot shower or bump up against my cuts. Another reason that I harm myself is because I need to have some form of control, when everything else in my life is going wrong, cutting or scratching can help me feel better because I have control over it, nobody else does.
I have been harming myself since I was in 7th grade, I’m 23 now. Never have I ever flaunted my wounds or scars, they are something that I am terribly ashamed of, as they are with most others who harm themselves. There is a huge misconception that people who self-harm are just seeking attention, but most are not. Once again, there are a few exceptions to that statement. Sometimes people might do it as a cry for help when they can’t find the courage to ask for it themself.
In my experience, there is a very specific feeling I get right before I cut or scratch. It starts out with heavy emotions; anger, sadness, frustration, mental and emotional pain are a few. So I’ve got all of these feelings flying around inside my brain and it’s just so overwhelming that my brain shuts down everything and I am emotionless. It’s like I’m watching myself from outside of my body, I can’t control what I’m doing. A lot of the time, I don’t remember the first cut or scratch because I’m just so numb. It’s usually not until I’ve hurt myself several times that I resurface and realize what’s going on. I do not know what causes this, I’m sure it has something to do with the Endorphins, Dopamine and Serotonin levels though.
It’s really interesting, actually, when you talk to someone who self-harms. A lot of people have similar stories but they’re all so different at the same time. I can not speak for everyone, only for myself and what I personally feel.
Self-harm is a horrible experience to endure and can be very addicting. I do not in any way condone this action nor do I recognize it as a healthy coping skill. If you harm yourself in any way, please seek help immediately!
With that being said, there is hope for you if you are a self-harmer. There are many other alternatives to hurting yourself and, since it has become increasingly popular over the past few years, therapists and psychiatrists are more capable of providing treatment for you than they have been in the past.
If you or anyone you know is suicidal, please contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline IMMEDIATELY! 1-800-273-TALK(8255)