TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains material that might be triggering to certain individuals. There is talk of self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
There are so many misconceptions surrounding self injury. I have been suffering with self injury since I was in 8th grade. When I was in high school I felt extremely alone because people did not understand what was going on inside of my head. Below is a list of misconceptions that I have heard from friends, family, and even professionals. The more we understand something as complex as self harm, the more we can help people suffering with it to reach out for help.
Misconception #1: Self-harm is just cutting.
Self harm or self injury means that you are hurting yourself on purpose. One of the most well known methods of doing this is cutting but anytime someone deliberately hurts themselves, that is self-harm. There are other methods people use including burning yourself, banging your head, scratching yourself, or pulling out hair. Self harm is extremely dangerous and results in extreme injuries.
Misconception #2: It’s For Attention.
For some, self harm is an attention seeking act. They feel like the only way they can get attention in their lives is by harming themselves and that is extremely sad. If someone is harming themselves for attention they clearly need it because this is an act of crying out for help. However, there are other people who are extremely private about their self harming behaviors. They go to many extremes to make sure no one ever finds out about their behaviors. Although these individuals are not attention seeking, they still need attention and support to reach out for help.
Misconception #3: Only Teenagers Self-Harm.
It is true that the majority of people who self harm are teenagers and young adults but people of all ages can suffer from these behaviors. In my years of writing about mental health online I have had children as young as 8 years old tell me that they are suffering from self harm. On the other hand, I also have had adults as old as 68 reach out to me and tell me their struggles.
Misconception#4: Everyone Who Self-Harms Has Borderline Personality Disorder.
People who repetitively self-injure have a variety of diagnoses including anorexia, depression, anxiety, bipolar, bulimia, OCD, PTSD, and other panic disorders. Many people who self injure don’t even have a diagnosis at all.
Misconception #5: Only Females Self-Harm.
I believe this is a misconception because you see women talking about self injury more than you see men do. Studies show that 30-40% of people who self injure are male.
Misconception #6: There is no treatment.
This is a very harmful misconception that I carried for a long time. There is so much hope to get better and recover from self-injury. Recovery is an up and down process but there is hope for a better future. CBT, DBT, support groups, self-care skills, and more, have been proven to help people suffering with self harm.
Misconception #7: There is nothing you can do to help.
There are SO MANY WAYS you can help. The easiest way you can help is by listening. These individuals could really benefit from someone listening to what they are going through with an open heart. Never give up on someone suffering with self harm. Instead of putting someone down for hurting themselves, try and build them up with love and kindness. Self harm is an addiction and people getting over an addiction need an amazing support team through it. You can be part of their support system.
Misconception #8: People who self-injure can’t feel the pain.
People who self harm have been heard saying that they feel “numb.” This lead some people to the conclusion that people who self harm cannot feel the pain they are causing themselves. This is absolutely not true. Hurting yourself most definitely hurts and in some causes it is why people do it in the first place. There is no evidence showing that people who self injure feel pain any differently than people who do not.
If you or someone you know are suffering from self injury I want you to know that you are not alone. Recovery is 100% possible and you don’t have to be alone during the process. Please reach out and talk to someone about how you are feeling. You are loved and deserve more than the harm you are doing to your body. If you would like to know some alternatives you can do when you start to feel the urge to self harm, click here!