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Self-harm is the act of deliberately injuring one's own body. People engage in self-harm for numerous different reasons, of which they may or may not be aware at the time of doing it. These reasons may range from stress relief to self-punishment, and from a desperation to feel anything, even if it is pain, to wanting others to see something is wrong. In some cases, self-harm is the result of hallucinations, which which the sufferer believes they are being order to engage in these acts by someone else or a higher power. Though many people who self-harm have suicidal thoughts, the self-harm often doesn't occur with the intention of committing suicide.

Forms Of Self-Harm

"Cutting", usually on the lower arms, is the most well-known form of self-harm to the point that many people are unaware that self-harm can come in many more forms as well.

Besides cutting, people who engage in self-harm may scratch themselves, pick at scabs or pull their hair out, punch or hit themselves, puncture the skin with sharp objects, or burn themselves. Behaviors not typically thought to come under the self-harm label, such as over-exercise, anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders, and substance abuse can also, in fact, ultimately fall under the self-harm umbrella.

Though any part of the body can be used for self-harming, readily accessible parts of the body, such as the arms and legs, are frequent targets. Those who engage in self-harm may use a variety of methods to do so, or limit themselves to one.

If You Self-Harm

If you have been injuring or damaging yourself, and especially if you have experienced suicidal thoughts, it is ultimately important to see your primary care physician for a referral to a mental health specialist who can help you as well as, where necessary, to seek treatment for your injuries.

Seeing a doctor about such a deeply personal situation, which you have most probably been attempting to hide from others due to fear as well as feelings of shame and guilt, can be terrifying. If you prefer, you can also seek out a psychiatrist or psychologist directly, browsing the web for professionals who have received positive reviews from other people with similar challenges. While you are working on plucking up courage to see a medical professional, talking to others who self-harm within an online support group may give you some comfort.

If You Think A Loved-One Is Self-Harming

Have you noticed frequent unexplained injuries on someone you love, do they keep their body covered in hot weather all of a sudden, and have you noticed that your loved-one seems depressed or anxious?

If you think your loved-one might be suicidal and their life is in immediate danger, you can get in touch with their doctor or call 911. In case of less urgent situations, simply providing a non-judgmental listening ear and encouraging your loved-one to seek medical help is most likely the best course of action; you don't want to push your loved-one so much that they will isolate themselves from you. If your minor child is self-harming, you can seek medical help for them. However, please try to remain calm and avoid yelling at them over the behavior; this will only cause further damage.

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