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Physical and Mental Health

What is self-inflicted injury?

Self-inflicted injury is the act of intentionally harming one’s own body without meaning for the injury to be fatal. People who engage in self-inflicted injury typically do so in an attempt to cope with distress, anger, and other painful emotions.

While self-inflicted injury may help people to cope with difficult feelings temporarily, it can cause emotional and physical harm long term. The practice may also have unintended consequences, such as severe injury or accidental death.

With support and treatment, people can reduce their distress and find healthier ways to manage emotions and cope with painful experiences.

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.

What is a self-inflicted injury?

A self-inflicted injury is an injury that a person gives themselves on purpose, without the intent to end their life. Other names for this behavior include self-harm, self-mutation, nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI), and parasuicidal behavior.

People who self-harm most commonly injure their arms, legs, or torso because these areas are easiest to reach and to hide under clothing. Some people also injure their scalp, as they can hide wounds under their hair or a hat.

According to Mental Health America, the most common methods of NSSI are:

  • skin cutting, which accounts for 70–90% of self-injuries
  • head banging or hitting, which accounts for 21–44%
  • burning, which accounts for 15–35%

Most people who self-injure use more than one method. Other forms of harm that can be self-inflicted include:

  • hair pulling
  • scratching or picking the skin
  • interfering with healing wounds
  • inserting objects into body openings
  • punching objects, causing injuries to the hands
  • hitting oneself with fists or objects
  • intentional exposure to an infection or toxin
  • jumping off high walls or buildings
  • drinking harmful liquids, such as detergent
  • taking harmful substances, or high doses of a substance

Why do people injure themselves?

People who engage in self-injury typically do so as a coping mechanism. Coping mechanisms are behaviors people use to manage difficult feelings, such as fear, anger, or sadness.

It can be difficult for others to understand how feeling physical pain could help a person feel temporary relief from emotional pain. But to the person who has self-harmed, it could seem like the only way to cope. People might self-injure to:

  • express the pain they are feeling, particularly if they struggle or are unable to do this through words
  • communicate distress to others in an indirect way
  • distract themselves from painful emotions or memories
  • feel like they have control over some aspect of their lives
  • feel something other than “numbness,” disconnection, or dissociation
  • punish themselves for their emotions or perceived failures

While some types of coping mechanism can be helpful, self-injury is a maladaptive coping mechanism. This means that while it may offer some temporary benefit, it causes mental and physical harm in the long term.

Self-injury can also become a compulsion. Some people only self-injure a few times, but for others, it can become a long-term behavior that is difficult to stop. For these individuals, the more they self-injure, the more they feel compelled to keep doing it..…. Continue Reading……

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