Self Harm: What It Is And How To Deal With It

Why is self-harm not the best solution?

For people who self-harm, every time they engage in self-injurious behaviour they achieve a great sense of relief which reinforces the need to injure oneself again in the future when faced with similar stressors. The person keeps repeating these acts unless it forms a habitual coping strategy for him/her, which, without a doubt is maladaptive. 

However, self-harm is crippling for the individuals who do it in several possible ways:

  • It promotes negative self-belief: One might feel relief on cutting, slashing oneself, but every time one self-injures, one is strengthening the negative concept one has about oneself, ending up nurturing the faulty self-belief one introjected through negative life experiences.

    Self-loathing is degrading to the self in several ways, lowering one’s self-esteem, depleting self-confidence and distorting a healthy concept about oneself, neither of which is self-promotional.


  • It can be fatal: Many forms of self-harming acts reach extremities like burning oneself, stabbing oneself or performing activities that can put an individual’s life to risk.


  • It can hinder your social image: The scars left behind by the wounds on the person’s body will never leave, even after he/she has successfully prevented himself/herself from self-harming. This scars remain long afterwards to remind you of your previous habits. People might make wrong conclusions about you. But you should know that you have been through your own struggles and achieved self-control. 

As much uncontrollable as the urge to self-harm is, always remember that it is not the answer to your problems; you have more healthy ways to help yourself. 


Tips to deal with self-harm:

Self-harm is controllable and can be treated if the underlying causes of self-harm can be determined. Not every strategy works for everyone, but most people will find a way that works for them.

What parents of teenagers who self-harm should do:

Parents of children who self-harm gets highly alarmed when they witness their children harming themselves. Conterio says,”they are at a loss of how to approach their child.” It is suggested that parents should provide a space for open and transparent communication with the kids.

Provide them the time to open up by themselves when they feel they are ready to face you. Make sure they know that you are concerned about them and not frustrated. Let them know you are aware of it.

Be direct with your child, adds Lader. “Don’t act out of anger or let yourself become hysterical – ‘I’m going to watch you every second, you can’t go anywhere.’ Be direct, express concern. Say, ‘We’re going to get help for you.'”

When the child is ready enough to slightly open up to their parents, their parents can take a further step to expose them to available psychotherapies but keeping in mind whether or not the child is ready to accept changes.

“The ultimate lynch pin is – the child has to decide they’re not going to do this anymore,” Rosen tells WebMD. “Any ultimatum, bribery, or putting them in a hospital is not going to do it. They need a good support system. They need treatment for underlying disorders like depression. They need to learn better coping mechanisms.”

Kids simply do not outgrow self harm. Rosen adds. “Kids who develop this behavior have fewer resources for dealing with stress, fewer coping mechanisms. As they develop better ways of coping, as they get better at self-monitoring, it’s easier to eventually give up this behavior. But it’s much more complicated than something they will outgrow.”


What you can do to help someone else to stop self-harming:

Developing a positive relationship with the self-injurious person is very crucial to stopping self-harm. 

When a non-judgemental and warm environment is provided to the person who self-harm, you are actually helping the person to disclose and open up about incidents associated with the act of self harm. 

Ask the person open-ended questions which will give them the opportunity to discuss about the underlying feelings. 

You can ask them questions like:

“Have you ever discussed this with anyone close to you?”

“Would you like to share something with me?”

“Should I get some help for you?”

“Would you like me to come with you?”

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Shreyasi Debnath
An editor and writer keeping keen interest in painting, creative writing and reading. I did my Masters in Clinical and Counselling Psychology and have been a counselling psychologist at a primary school for the past 1 year. I love doing absolutely anything that mends a mind and soothes a soul. Most often than not, I ponder over to come up with poems. A wandering soul in search for meaning.
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