Self-Harm as an Addiction
A common misconception that many teenagers have when learning that a friend self-harms is that it is a cry for help. However, this is most often not the case, especially in cases where the self-harmer goes to great lengths to hide their scars/marks. Many self-harmers will wear long coats during the summer or claim to be suffering from numerous injuries. This is because they use their self-harming as a pain relief, not as a method of seeking attention.
Self-harm is defined as any intentional but nonfatal injury to one's self, including cutting, swallowing of poisons, or bruising oneself. During the teenage years, the mixing of two major issues can lead to self-harm. Firstly, teens are put under a lot of stress, often unprecedented levels of stress. Secondly,teens have not learned healthy methods of coping with stress. Teens self-harm not because they want to die or are "crazy", they simply are going through a lot. However, self-harm is by no means a healthy coping method. Over time, it turns into an addiction as dangerous as that of any drug. Additionally, the likelihood of depression and suicide will rise. So how does one stop a friend they know is self-harming?
Firstly, work with them to find what the problem is. Remember that no matter how silly it might seem, the person likely has not found a good way to cope and is therefore resorting to self-harm. Once the problem is found, stopping self-harming can be as simple as finding another way to cope with the stress. Keep in touch about the problem - self-harm has a high risk of relapse. You may find that the problem goes away as the person finds better coping methods. If it does not, use one of our resources or contact someone you trust to help.
References and Further Reading
- Helpguide.org's page on cutting and self-harm - dispels many popular myths