ABH Maryland

Revealing the Reasons and Psychology Behind Self-Harm


Revealing the Reasons and Psychology Behind Self-Harm

  • Mental Health

Self-harm is the practice of deliberately hurting oneself, usually through cutting, scratching, or burning, and it is an act that people commit in secret. There are many facets to the psychology behind self-harm.

Like suicide attempts, incidents of self-harm often go unreported, making a complete understanding of the problem impossible. People who commit self-harm are usually careful not to cause enough damage to their bodies to require medical attention. Still, the Centers for Disease Control last reported 575,000 annual hospital visits for self-harm incidents severe enough to require treatment.

Thankfully, treatment is available for individuals who suffer from self-injury, and those who feel compelled to hurt themselves can learn healthier coping skills to deal with their emotional pain. The information below will help you understand the underlying psychological causes of self-harming. 

The Psychology Behind Self-Harm

People harm themselves in response to acute psychological stress. Generally speaking, those who commit this non-suicidal self-injury, or NSSI, attempt to cope with intense shame, anxiety, and guilt. 

By inflicting pain on the body, the individual can feel temporary relief from their anxiety’s physical and emotional grip. Consequently, the purpose of self-harm is to feel better, not to end all feelings, and this is one of the ways it may differ from suicidal behavior. 

However, the relief that self-harm allows is fleeting, and feelings of shame and worthlessness soon return. Many people will stop after a few attempts fail to lead to lasting relief; others will continue to harm themselves for longer.

As one practices harming their body, their inhibition toward suicidal behavior goes down, and if they do become suicidal, this may increase their chances of making a suicide attempt. 

Underlying Causes of Self-Injury

People frequently self-harm to:

  • Cope with emotional stress
  • Exert control over their lives
  • Punish themselves for perceived flaws
  • Disrupt intrusive thoughts

They can be triggered by troubling thoughts of past traumas or in response to current stressors. Common causes of self-injury include:

Traumatic Events: Traumatic experiences from the past, including sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, create unresolved conflict that sometimes leads to self-harm.

Family Environment: Growing up in a home with neglectful or emotionally immature parents can cause a person to self-harm. Instability in the household leads a person to seek control over their emotional state, and cutting or burning oneself is a way to achieve this control. 

Shame: People sometimes harm themselves as a way to punish themselves. Their sense of worthlessness, loneliness, and self-hatred is so great that they often injure themselves severely to ease the pain. They feel a deep sense of shame caused by bullying or questioning their sexual identity.

Contact Us Today

Understanding the psychology behind self harm can help people recognize common behaviors and get help. If you or someone you love suffers from self-harm, don’t wait any longer to address it. Contact Advanced Behavioral Health today.

At Advanced Behavioral Health, we care about your mental well-being and can offer ways to cope without self-harming. 

You can call us at 301-345-1022 or send us a message online here. One of our team members will help you find the care you need.

When you think of the well-being of a child, you first think of basic needs: food, water, and shelter. Once these needs are met, however, it’s crucial for a child to have emotional and social wellness as well. In this article, we will explore the impact social wellness has on the overall health of a child and great ways for children to garner social support in their lives.

It comes as no surprise that as human beings, we all need connection with others, no matter what stage of life we are in. In fact, having social support is a social determinant of health (SDOH) that significantly impacts the health of an individual. After spending the last few years in and out of isolation due to the Covid-19 outbreak, social support is more important now than ever before. Having social support means having family members and friends you can talk to and seek advice from when life feels challenging and overwhelming. Knowing you’re not alone in your life journey, especially as a child, creates a sense of belonging and empowerment throughout one’s life.

4 Types of Social Support

Emotional Support. This type of support lets you know that people care about you and have empathy for your experiences. Emotional support often looks like people checking in on you to let you know they’re thinking of you, and that they are there if you need anything. As a parent, make sure your child knows you can be a sounding board for them. If you have family members who can also show up for your children in this way, even better!

Practical Help. This type of support is when people give you something tangible or offer a service to help you out. This could be in the form of money, making food when you are sick, or helping to pack when moving. Having family and friends show up in this way shows your child what it looks like to be present for people you love.

Sharing Points of View. This type of support can often come in the form of affirmations and encouragement. For example, pointing out your child’s strengths to them and reminding them they can do anything they put their mind to. It can also look like sharing another perspective if they are being hard on themselves. For example, if they are angry with themselves after receiving a bad grade on a test, you can help them see it as a learning experience and a way for them to grow.

Sharing Information. This type of support is when someone shares what they’ve learned from their own life experiences. For example, if another parent has a child who struggles with socializing, they can share some tips and tricks they’ve learned to help their child find and create social support.

The Importance of Social Groups and Extended Support

Children who are connected to their family, friends, and people in their community have opportunities to learn how to speak, share, and get along with others. When your child feels connected to people in your neighborhood, it often allows them to feel physically safe which can alleviate stress and worry. Simply riding bikes, going on walks, and saying hello to neighbors with your kids can create this sense of security for them.

In addition to engaging with your neighbors, getting involved in local organizations can also create social support for your child. Signing up for a sports team, musical theater, art class or summer camp are all great ways to help your child meet new friends and learn important social skills that can carry them through their lives.

Tips for Helping Kids Make Community Connections:

Spend time outside in your neighborhood playing on the playground, going to a local farmer’s market, or scheduling a playdate with neighborhood kids.

Show your kids that connection is a two-way street. If your neighbors or friends go out of town, offer to get their mail, or water their plants and take your child with you when you go. This will show your child how you show up for people you care about.

Make sure you make time for socializing with friends as well. Your child looks to you first and foremost for how they should act and live their own life.

Encourage your child to step out of their comfort zone and do something they may be scared to do. As a parent, it’s your job to push them into something social for their own well-being at times.