While physical self-destruction is a side effect in many problem behaviors such as eating disorders and drug addiction, the term self-harm refers to intentional destruction on one’s own body. Finding out that a family member—often times children and adolescents—is harming themselves is a jarring and often terrifying experience.
More often than not, the behavior is not a predecessor to suicide, but a cry for help. Depression and other mental health issues are still heavily stigmatized and poorly understood. Self-harmers are often just trying to communicate their unresolved problems; other times they are punishing themselves. outward behaviors like cutting, burning, and picking indicate unresolved internal issues.
Getting Help for Self Harm
It is highly recommended that any family finding themselves in this situation explore therapy and intervention opportunities, but for those who wish to educate themselves prior to or throughout this process, there is an array of psychiatric literature. Books like Letting Go of Self-Destructive Behaviors make use of drawings, exercises, imagery, and visualization help readers, self-harming or not, understand and manage the behavior. These works explore the methodology, psychological triggers, and various other elements of self-mutilation.
Identifying a problem is the first step in solving it; next comes understanding.
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