Self-harm, self-injury or self-mutilation is the deliberate and direct act of causing physical damage to one’s own body. It can be a symptom of many psychiatric, mood and personality disorders including substance and process addictions but it can be a condition on its own. This is known as NSSI – Non-Suicidal Self Injury.
Common forms of self-harm range from cutting, burning, scratching, hitting and bruising body parts, to skin-picking and compulsive hair-pulling. Although many other harmful behaviors cause pain and leave physical damage, what distinguishes self-harm are the things that motivate it.
Self-harm can be an expression of rage, comfort and desperation all at the same time. It can even be understood as an act taken in order to fight for life, where suicidal urges can be acted out but not acted on. Although many self-harmers may stop there direct behaviors, many continue to cause or seek out physical harm to themselves through other behaviors. It is her that we find the links to substance abuse, eating disorders, unsafe sex, reckless driving, poison ingestion, unnecessary surgeries an many others.
Because self-harm is widely misunderstood, judged and stigmatized, many sufferers avoid seeking help. Because self-harm is a secretive act rather than a cry for attention, many go unnoticed. And while self-harm is usually separate from suicide attempts, many cross that line and many are lost.