The Best Ways to Handle Self-Harm

Do you have days when you feel so low that you believe the only thing you can do is create even more damage? When we think of the concept of abuse, we are likely to think of one person doing harm to another person. However, sometimes the abuse comes from our own selves instead.

Those who have dealt with emotionally traumatic circumstances in the past, especially during their youth, have a tendency to turn their pain inwards. This happens due to the individual feeling that they are to blame for the misfortune and hurt that they have experienced. That somehow if they did something different, were someone different, then these situations would no longer continue. Often, there are patterns of pain that the person experiences and when they see the same pattern coming up again and again, they believe it must be something they are doing. These people feel that no matter what they do it is not good enough, for if it were, they would be able to stop the pattern. Therefore, they feel a strong need to punish themselves.

Along with this need for punishment, is a longing to be rid of the deep pain they are currently experiencing. Self-harm is often the answer for many of those dealing with emotional turmoil. Harming themselves allows them a release, even if for a moment, and a way to distract themselves from the emotional pain while at the same time “getting what they deserve”. They may cut their skin, slap themselves, use an object to hit themselves with, pinch their own skin until they bleed, abuse substances, destroy possessions that are valuable to them believing that they do not deserve them, or even use sex in a way that will harm them either physically or emotionally. There are many ways that may be used to hurt or punish ones self. They feel trapped in a never-ending cycle of pain, and they feel that no matter what they do they cannot seem to stop the same cycle from reoccurring. The same situations seem to happen to them, over and over.

Hopeless, they retreat inward until they can no longer handle the hurt and then they lash out in a self-destructive manner. These feelings are deeply rooted, usually stemming from abuse or trauma as a child. A person with this need to inflict harm on themselves feels at their core that they were never truly loved as themselves, that they are not good enough as they are, and that they cannot stop the painful situation from happening, despite their best efforts.

When in the darkest part of this cycle, they hold strong to the belief that they are to blame. It is THEIR fault that this is happening, and nothing anyone says can convince them of their worth. They cannot see the bright side. All they feel is shame and regret, all they see is a bleak future where it just starts all over again. This is when they lash out to get the temporary relief they need in order to make it through the rest of the time. During this point, it is unlikely that they will be responsive to any sort of aid or assurances. This person is now unable to see anything but pain and they “know” it is their fault.

The best thing to do during this time is BE with them. Don’t judge them, don’t try to persuade them to be optimistic—that will only force them to come up with reasons why what they see is correct and dig their heels in further. Instead, comfort them. Let them do what they need to do to feel better. Just being there with them will help them, as long as you do not try to change their mind at this moment. Now is not the time for an intervention. WAIT.

When this period dissipates (which it will for some amount of time), get them to therapy. Find a good psychologist that they feel comfortable with and can talk to. This kind of difficulty runs deep and is not easily fixed. It requires a lot of therapy to get to the bottom of what is happening. Sometimes a person can develop this sort of belief system and behavior without having had any sort of trauma that can be pin pointed. A long stream of seemingly bad luck and repeated patterns of painful circumstances can also lead someone down this path. Though easier to overcome, this too requires a lot of internal work that is best carried out by a trained psychologist.

However, if therapy is not an option, do your best to research the issues that the person is having and sit down with them on a regular basis to discuss how they are feeling and why. Do not judge them, nor should you come to them with an expectation that they will be “Fixed”. They can sense this and will only end up feeling more misunderstood and alone. Be there with them, ask, and listen. Let whatever comes out come out. Slowly, things may turn around, though again this will take time—have patience.

If the situation becomes life-threatening, seek emergency assistance in your area. There are also hotlines that can be called for advice or just to lend an ear when needed. Here are some resources that may help. Whatever happens, the single best thing you can do is be there for them without judgement.

When in the midst of an abusive situation, it may be difficult to think clearly and come up with a solution to remedy the abuse, while trying to implement it may feel almost impossible. However, given the right tools and the will power to create change, it most certainly is possible, even more so– it is probable. Many may feel overwhelmed and may not know where to start, but it is important to start somewhere.

Please continue to check in with us each week for a new post about abusive behavior and how it can affect your life and the lives of those around you. There is always that first action to helping someone you care about. Let this be it!


Author Bio - Anna Czarska is a writer and actor who has 15+ years of experience dealing with various situations of abuse. She has pursued business ventures and creative pursuits as well as spending time to study psychology in both formal and personal education. For more information, you may find her Linkedin profile here:

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