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Why do people Self-harm ?

Self-harm takes place when someone deliberately hurts themselves by piercing or burning the skin as an emotional coping mechanism. Self-harm is a behavior-an unhealthy way to cope with strong feelings. Self-harm in children and teenagers are of serious consequences which increase during the adolescent years.


Some people may ask for help, and sometimes self-harming is discovered by family members or friends. A medical professional doing a routine medical evaluation may notice signs, such as scars or fresh injuries.

There’s no diagnostic test for self-harming. Diagnosis is done on a physical and psychological evaluation. You may be referred to a mental health therapist who has expertise in treating self-injury for evaluation.

He will evaluate you for other mental health disorders related to self-harming, such as depression or personality disorders. In that case, evaluation may include additional tools, such as questionnaires or psychological tests.

Depression can be one of the causes for self-harm.


Self-harm is usually not detected easily because most often people try to hide it. Some symptoms that a person might be self-harming are:

• Scars are seen in a pattern, sometimes restricted to one area of the body

• Keeping sharp objects, such as knives, needles etc on hand

• Fresh scars, scratches, and bruises

• Poor self esteem 

• Less or no self confidence

• Feelings of worthlessness

• Unpredictable, impulsive behavior

• Making excuses to explain fresh injuries

Types of self-harm

Self-harm takes place in isolation and is done in a controlled manner which leaves a pattern on the skin. Types of self-harm include:

• Cutting with a sharp object

• Burning with cigarettes

• Carving words or symbols on the skin with a sharp object

• Banging head against the wall

• Piercing the skin with sharp objects

• Inserting objects under the skin


There’s no one single cause in particular that leads someone to self-injure. In general, self-injury may result from:

Poor coping skills: Nonsuicidal self-harm stems from the inability to cope in healthy ways with psychological pain.

Difficulty managing emotions:  The person has a hard time expressing his emotions. The person may experience feelings of worthlessness, loneliness, panic, anger, guilt, rejection, and self-hatred.


The best way to treat self-injuring behavior, is to ask a therapist for help. Counselling is done on your specific mental health issues you are facing, such as depression. Before self-injury becomes a major part of your life, it’s better to get treated from a mental health professional experienced in self-injury issues.

If the self-harming behavior is associated with depression or borderline personality disorder, the treatment plan focuses on that disorder, as well as the self-injury behavior. Treating self-harming behavior requires time, hard work and your own willingness to recover.

Psychotherapy:  Also known as talk therapy or psychological counselling, Psychotherapy can help you to:

• Identify and manage existing issues that trigger self-injuring behavior

• Learn skills to manage distress

• Learn how to regulate your emotions

• Learn to work on your self confidence

• Develop skills to work on your relationships and social skills

• Develop a healthy problem-solving approach

Several types of individual psychotherapy may be helpful, few examples are:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps you identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, adaptive ones

Dialectical behavior therapy: Dialectical behavior therapy is a type of CBT that teaches behavioral skills to help you tolerate distress, manage, or regulate your emotions, and improve your relationships with others

Mindfulness-based therapies: Mindfulness based therapies help you live in the present, appropriately perceive the thoughts and actions of those around you to reduce your anxiety and depression, and improve your general well-being


Though there are no medications to specifically treat self-harming behavior, your doctor may recommend antidepressants or other medications if you’re diagnosed with a mental health disorder, such as depression or an anxiety disorder. Treatment might help you feel less urge to hurt yourself.

Psychiatric hospitalization

If you injure yourself often, your doctor may recommend you to be admitted to a hospital for psychiatric care. Short term Hospitalization provides a safe environment and more-intensive treatment to help you get through a crisis. Seeking help from a therapist is a good option.

Let us take into consideration a recent case study. 

Case Study: Intentional self-harm cases up substantially among children during pandemic

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the mental health of children. This coronavirus pandemic has got a new wave of issues, especially in mental health affecting children, especially teenagers.

As per a study conducted by Fair Health, it looked at health insurance claims in 2020 and found that intentional self-harm claims were up substantially in 2020 compared to 2019.A large number of claims related to mental health were for children in the age group of 13-17.

The number of these type of claims remained high throughout November of 2020. Paediatric experts claim these cases were already on the rise among children before the pandemic due to a number of factors, including increased bullying and more time spent on social media. However, the imposed lockdown made it difficult to get help.

Currently adults are stressed too. That stress and anxiety can trickle down to kids. Most times, children will try not to admit it, but also, because especially during the pandemic, parents and families are having their own problems, and that takes away from what you are observing in others. 

If you think something is disturbing your child, don’t wait for them to bring it up. Initiate those talks. It’s also important to talk to your therapist or family physician about any concerns and talk with your friends and family for support.

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