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March 1st is International Self-Injury Awareness Month

Posted Mar 01 2013 8:30am


What do Singer, Fiona Apple; Comedian, Russell Brand; Actress, Drew Barrymore; Actor, Johnny Depp; Actor, Colin Farrell; Actress, Megan Fox; Actress, Angelina Jolie; Singer, Demi Lovato and Princess Diana have in common?

Before finding emotional health, they struggled with self-injury.

Self-Injury is a deliberate, non-suicidal behavior that inflicts physical harm on one's body to relieve emotional distress. Self-injury has a paradoxical effect in that the pain self-inflicted actually sets off an endorphin rush, relieving the self-harmer from deep distress. It's important to note that self-injury does not involve a conscious intent to commit suicide - and as such, the clinical term for this behavior is called Non-Suicidal Self Injury (NSSI), NSSI can take many forms from cutting, picking, burning, bruising, puncturing, embedding, scratching or hitting one's self, just to name a few.

In its simplest form, NSSI is a physical solution to an emotional wound. Generally, it is a deliberate, private act that is habitual in occurrence, not attention-seeking behavior, nor meant to be manipulative. Self-injurers are often secretive about their behaviors, rarely letting others know, and often cover up their wounds with clothing, bandages, or jewelry.

Symbolically speaking, deliberately injuring one's self can be viewed as a method to communicate what cannot be spoken. With self-harm, the skin is the canvas and the cut, burn or bruise is the paint that illustrates the picture. Most individuals who self-injure are struggling with emotional expression. This clinical experience is known as Alexithymia - the inability to recognize emotions and their subtleties and to understand or describe thoughts and feelings. Many other self-harmers are struggling with internal conflicts, may have anxiety, depression, may have experienced physical or sexual abuse, or other more serious psychological concerns.

Statistically speaking, approximately 4% of the population in the United States uses NSSI as a way of coping. Individuals who self-injure are represented in all SES brackets in the United States with the behavior usually starting in adolescence. Girls and women tend to self-injure more than boys and men, but this may be represented by the fact that females tend to turn to professional help more than males.

Those Who Self-Injure Are Often Trying To:

* Distract themselves from emotional pain

* End feelings of numbness

* Offset feelings of low self-esteem

* Control helplessness or powerlessness

* Calm overwhelming or unmanageable feelings

* Maintaining control in chaotic situations

* Self-punish, self-shame or self-hate

* Express negative thoughts or feelings that cannot be put into words

* Self-nurture or self-care

For more help and resources, reach out to Self-Injury Outreach and Support   and To Write Love on Her Arms


 

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