Self Harm Awareness: Self-Injury & Addiction

March is recognized as Self Harm Awareness Month, a month dedicated to bringing awareness to something that happens across all genders, races, beliefs, and ages. One in five individuals will engage in self-injury in their lifetime, with the vast majority beginning during adolescence. 

What is Self Harm?

Deliberate or intentional harm to one’s self is referred to as self-harm or self-injury. Self-harm is different from suicide in that the intent is not to end their emotional pain with death, rather redirect emotional suffering. In other words, self-injury is used as an outlet or release mechanism. 

The most common method of self-harm is cutting on the arms, legs, wrists, or torso. Other forms of self-harm include: 

  • Hair pulling
  • Biting
  • Burning
  • Head-butting
  • Hitting
  • Carving
  • Scratching
  • Skin picking
  • Intentional interference with wound healing

Bringing Awareness to Self Harm

If you have struggled with self-harm or if you want to provide support to those who are struggling, bringing awareness to the issue is critical. Many times we don’t even know that someone we care about is hurting emotionally and physically. They may hide their injuries with clothing and make-up or even isolate themselves.

Bringing awareness to the issue in a non-judgemental and supporting manner may create a platform for more people to open up about their experiences and inspire others to get help. The orange ribbon is a symbol of Self Harm Awareness. Pin an orange ribbon to your shirt or purse throughout March, and any day of the year to symbolize Self Harm Awareness. It may spark a conversation where you can educate others on the subject or it can serve as a signal that you provide a safe space for individuals who do self-harm and need someone to talk to. 

Self Harm & Addiction

It is estimated that over 8% of people who follow through with self-harm also abuse drugs, but some consider self-harm a form of addiction in itself. Similar to some forms of substance abuse, self-harm is often used as a response to feelings of sadness or depression. By causing an injury, a cut or burn could produce feelings of relief and even a rush of pain-relieving endorphins, however, this immediate relief will likely be followed by feelings of shame and guilt. The highs and lows associated with self-harm lend themselves to a cycle of negative feelings, self-injury, relief, and more negative feelings. The obsession to cut or use other methods of self-harm is not much different than the use of drugs. On the flip side, the use of drugs or alcohol can be considered a form of self-harm too. 

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Self Harm & Addiction

Individuals who physically self-harm and abuse drugs or alcohol may be given a dual mental health diagnosis. If this is you, our team at Level Up can help. Our dual diagnosis program is designed to assist those who struggle with a substance use disorder along with other mental health issues. Our providers can work with you to address underlying struggles and set you on track for a healthier and happier future.