New Leaf Counseling Group, LLC - Therapist & Counselor Team - Charlotte, NC
“How long has it been since you cut yourself?” I can’t remember how many times as a therapist I’ve asked this question or one like it.
Self-harm is a silent and often unspoken mental health problem that is covered in shame and guilt by clients, as well as surrounded by questions and deep concern by the people who love them.
For this reason, the counselor and therapist team at New Leaf Counseling Group filmed this three-part series on self-harm or self-injury to break through the silence and illuminate realities about self-injury: it crosses ages, genders, socioeconomic class, racial lines, and any other category you might imagine.
Self-harm is not just the stereotype of teenagers from a "certain crowd", or about teenagers “going through a phase” or “seeking attention.” It’s a very real and present problem for many individuals that can be very frightening for them, as well as Friends & Loved Ones, and anyone else who is in the day-to-day Life of someone who is self-harming.
For this series, we broke down the general experience of self-harm down into three basic areas:
1) Causes: It’s important to take a topic like self-harm and discuss what might cause someone to willingly and repeatedly hurt themselves. When a person starts to self-harm, any number of causes can play a part, but the most important to note is that, generally speaking, self-harm takes the chaos of internal emotions that are invisible and externalizes them.
We can’t see emotional pain, confusion, and distress; self-harming behavior like cutting, burning, or any number of other methods of self-injury make those invisible forms of pain visible. The person can see a physical injury that indicates he or she is hurt or wounded, which gives the injured more space to experience the pain on another, more obvious level of existence.
We discuss other causes of self-harm in the first video, including the desire to feel something if the person feels numb or the need to self-punish, but all of these causes are surrounded by am overwhelming shame and guilt about the self-harming behavior more specifically. It takes a lot of trust for most people to discuss their self-harming behavior more openly.
2) Myths: There are some very significant myths surrounding self-harm that are important to address, and I selected the three most common.
1st Myth of Self-Harm
First, that people who self-harm are looking for attention. For the vast majority of individuals who self-harm, this is a secretive and hidden activity that they conceal and will make excuses for if their injuries happen to be uncovered. They are ashamed and yet unable to stop self-harming, but the last thing they want is attention being drawn to their behavior.
Second, that self-harming is a fad or happens when teenagers (usually) are “going through a phase,” or otherwise influenced by their friends and goes away on its own. This is a dangerous approach to self-harm. While it is more likely for someone to experiment with self-injury if they know someone who self-injures, even trying self-harming behavior indicates the presence of deep emotional problems and can create a negative feedback loop that becomes addictive.
Third, that self-harming is "suicidal." While individuals who self-harm are at higher risk for suicide due to underlying emotional distress, self-harm in and of itself is not considered a behavior that expresses"suicidal intention."
3) Treatment and Assistance: For the final video, we discuss some basic approaches on how to help someone who is self-harming, as well as how to help yourself if you are self-harming.
There will also be discussion of treatment options in therapy, as well as how a mental health evaluation can be the first step toward finding a counselor or therapist, as well as whether or not prescription medication might be an appropriate part of the solution for you.
Let's be clear: each person is different, so you have to find what works for you. Our counselor and therapist team is ready to support your process in finding the path that feels right for YOU. Recovery from repetitive self-harm is absolutely possible, but it requires finding the right supports and recognizing that change never happens overnight.
This video series is meant to be a brief introduction to the topic of self-harm. Below we have included additional resources, both internet and print, that go into more depth to help explain the psychology of self-harm, provide support for those who self-harm and those who love and support them, as well as connect you and/or Loved Ones to communities that encourage positive growth and a change in coping methods.