5 Facts About Self-Harming

Everyone Needs to Know These 5 Facts About Self-Harming

  • Association With Sexual Abuse
  • How Common It Is
  • Who Self-harms
  • How Self-harmers Learn
  • Self-harmers Excel at Hiding Their Injuries

Self-harming is often a symptom of depression or another mental illness, yet many people do not know these important five facts about self-harming. People who self-harm often hide their injuries under long clothing or layers of clothing. Understanding these five facts about self-harming gives parents, caregivers, friends, and family members the chance to help their loved one get counseling and medical treatment for their conditions.

Related resource: Top 25 Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) Degree Programs

1. Association With Sexual Abuse

As many as 50% of people who self-harm have experienced sexual abuse, explains the Healthy Places website. The sexual abuse may or may not be ongoing. Even one instance of sexual abuse may lead a person to self-harm. Both males and females may engage in self-harm as a type of anxiety relief from sexual abuse.

2. How Common It Is

Each year, about one in five females and one in seven males engages in a self-injurious behavior with the intent to harm themselves. The most common type of self-harm is picking at or cutting the skin. Friends, family, and teachers may notice cuts, scratches or sores on the arms or legs. The injuries on the arms are typically on the opposite side as the person’s handedness. For example, a right-handed person is more likely to self-harm their left arm.

3. Who Self-harms

More than 90 percent of people who self-harm start engaging in the behavior during their pre-teen or teenage years. About half of them will continue to self-harm into their 20s, especially if they do not have treatment from a mental health professional or physician. Females comprise about 60 percent of people who self-harm. Many people who self-harm have another mental health condition that is not being treated. Some of the co-existing conditions include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, conduct or behavioral disorders and substance abuse.

4. How Self-harmers Learn

Individuals who self-harm usually learn their behaviors and techniques for hiding their injuries from friends or from the internet. When picking at the skin or cutting no longer satisfies the person’s urge to self-harm, they may explore other techniques such as burning, hitting themselves with objects or inserting objects into the skin. Some people who self harm may focus on their genitalia, especially if they suffered from sexual abuse. These injuries are difficult for anyone except a gynecologist or urologist to detect, and they can resemble the injuries that occur during a sexual assault.

5. Self-harmers Excel at Hiding Their Injuries

According to the Child Mind Institute, individuals who perform self-harming excel at hiding their injuries. Observers may notice that the person has several bandages, but the individual might explain them away as paper cuts or scrapes from tripping and falling. The person might start to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants in hot weather, claiming to be cold or wanting to avoid a sunburn. Teens may avoid using locker rooms or may avoid going to pools and other places where their skin could be seen by others. This also leads to isolation from peers.

Self-harm is a real danger to the people who experience it. Their self-injury may escalate and put their lives at risk. Understanding these five facts about self-harming gives teachers, friends and family members a chance to help their loved one find the appropriate type of medical and mental health care to overcome this potentially fatal behavior.