Self-harm is not a mental health disorder, but it is a behavior that must be taken seriously. Not only can self-harm inflict severe physical damage, but it can also be a symptom of certain mental illnesses.
Self-harm, which is sometimes referred to as self-injury or self-mutilation, describes a series of behaviors that cause a person to intentionally harm their own body, often as the result of emotional pain or anger. The most common form of self-harm is cutting yourself with a sharp object, but as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) describes, anytime someone tries to deliberately hurt themselves qualifies as self-harm.
Any thought of harming yourself is a sign that you’re in the midst of severe emotional distress and in need of professional intervention. At Montrose Behavioral Health Hospital, we provide evidence-based treatment for people who are struggling with self-harm that co-occurs with a mental health concern.
Signs & Symptoms of Self-Harm
The signs and symptoms of self-harm can vary greatly depending on a person’s history of mental illness, their age, their personality, and the type of self-harm they’re engaging in.
Many people who participate in self-harming behaviors also make a concerted effort to hide their injuries. For the most part, though, common self-harm signs and symptoms include:
- Frequent agitation
- Increased level of isolation
- Impaired motor skills
- Trouble focusing
- Keeping sharp objects nearby
- Acting out impulsively and unpredictably
- Missing hair
- Wearing baggy clothing and long sleeves/pants in warm weather
- Scars in visible patterns
- Broken bones with no clear cause
If you are displaying some of these signs and symptoms, it may be worth pursuing professional self-harm treatment before you inflict more damage. Even if your intent isn’t long-term physical pain, finding the right level of care at a self-harm treatment place can help you develop the coping skills necessary to achieve recovery.
As NAMI points out, self-harm is most common during a person’s teenage and early adult years. But it can occur at any point in life. For a person who has a history of abuse, trauma, or neglect, the risk factor for self-harm is even greater.
The following are some statistics on the prevalence of self-harm:
- Though young white females are often perceived as the most common demographic to engage in self-harm, at least 35% and as many as half of self-injurers may be male, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).
- Self-harm is often a predictor of later suicide attempts. A 2013 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that students who self-harmed but didn’t report suicidal thoughts at the beginning of the trial period were 3.4 times more likely to have attempted suicide by the end of the study.
- According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), women are more likely to use cutting to self-harm, while men more frequently use hitting or burning.
- About 17% of adolescents have attempted self-harm at least once, according to an international meta-analysis of 52 studies conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Potential Effects of Self-Harm
The physical effects of self-harm may be easier to spot, but the psychological ramifications tend to last longer and are much harder to discern.
Self-harm causes feelings of shame and guilt, and when those emotions frequently pop up, a person may return to the self-harming behaviors they use as coping mechanisms. Examples of the effects of self-harm include:
- Suicidal ideation
- Financial struggles or consistent unemployment
- Low self-esteem
- Permanent scarring
- Abuse of alcohol or other substances
- Onset or worsening of mental health concerns
- Damaged relationships with inner circle
- Continued feelings of embarrassment or shame
- Social isolation
By receiving comprehensive self-harm treatment, you can put an end to some of these effects that may already be in motion and stop potential future damage before it begins.
The Benefits of Self-Harm Treatment
Along with persistent feelings of guilt and shame, self-harm can leave you feeling alone. If you find yourself in frequent isolation, it can be much harder to regulate negative emotions and develop the coping skills that can lead to recovery.
By seeking professional intervention at a self-harm treatment center, you can discover that hope is on the horizon. You’ll work with qualified professionals who can help you understand the roots of your distress and determine how to end the dangerous cycle of self-harm.
You’ll also meet others who have experienced similar struggles. Finding common ground with fellow patients who have suffered from self-harming behaviors can help you open up and learn that you’re not alone, and the camaraderie that can form from group interactions can be a major benefit on your path to better health.
How to Find the Right Self-Harm Treatment Center
Each person who struggles with self-harm has a different experience, so it’s critical for you to find professional help that will provide you with a personalized treatment plan rather than one-size-fits-all programming.
How you got here matters, and a good self-harm treatment place will take into account your unique journey to help you get to where you need to be. Components of care you should look for when considering self-harm treatment include:
- Various levels of care to help you progress in your recovery
- A streamlined admissions process
- A thorough assessment that will help staff understand your needs
- A variety of professionals who have experience working with self-harming behaviors
- A foundation for aftercare, whether that’s stepping down to a lower level or a detailed discharge plan
You’ll find all these features at Montrose Behavioral Health Hospital. From the moment you seek care with us until after your discharge, we will provide you with self-harm treatment plans that fit your specific needs.
Therapies Used in Co-Occurring Self-Harm Treatment
Before we admit you to Montrose Behavioral Health Hospital, we’ll have you participate in an assessment that will give us a better idea of your current needs, your history of mental health treatment, and your goals for your time with us.
From there, we’ll compile a personalized treatment plan that reflects your struggles with co-occurring self-harm and a mental health concern. Your plan may include the following elements:
- Family therapy
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Detoxification services if you also have a substance use disorder
- Basic medical care provided by doctors and nurses
- Medication management services to monitor any medication you may be taking
Your plan may incorporate elements of treatment modalities such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and, if necessary, the 12-Step model of recovery.
All our therapies are evidence-based and will cater to your individual needs. At Montrose Behavioral Health Hospital, we’ll help you understand your symptoms, develop coping skills, and find the path to better health.
This content was written on behalf of and reviewed by the clinical staff at Montrose Behavioral Health Hospital.