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Self-Harm: When the Behavior Becomes More Than Attention-Seeking

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Self-Harm: When the Behavior Becomes More Than Attention-Seeking

 

Many think that deliberate self-harm (DSH) is a way to get attention from others, usually parents. However, it can be more than that, which is something you don’t want to discover the hard way, at the expense of your child’s future. While it is true that for certain teenagers, it is an experimental way to feel relieved of emotional weight, not all young people who self-harm are just seeking attention.

If your child is in deep pain and too embarrassed or afraid to tell anyone, he or she may cut or self-harm in an attempt to feel better. There are many possible reasons for self-harm, and most of them aren’t good. Self-harm is an indication that something is dreadfully not right in the person’s life. If it’s a red flag, a counselor or therapist can tell.

 

DSH Realization 101

It doesn’t take deep analysis to realize that “stripping naked and running down the high street would be attention-seeking, but self-harming is very private and personal,” as Liz Scarff of Have I Got a Problem? says. Individuals who cut themselves go to great lengths to conceal the signs of injuries, such as by wearing long-sleeved or high-necked outfits.

Scarff also mentions some common myths associated with DSH, such as that these people are suicidal, or that they can stop if they want to. Those who self-harm may not be thinking of ending their lives, but they can’t just stop the behavior, even when they want to. Further, DSH isn’t limited to teenagers, though they are more vulnerable because of many factors, such as self-esteem and weight issues. DSH can be triggered by a number of issues, including abuse or borderline personality disorder (BPD).

If a person is using self-harm to feel good, it is important that they seek counseling to address their emotional issues. Cutting is just one way of inflicting injury on oneself; it may also come in the forms of “hair pulling, head banging, scratching, burning, and overdosing.”

 

Looking Deeper Than the Skin-Deep Cuts

Since DSH is more common in young people, many may wonder, What drives young people to self-harm? Therapist Jenna Mutlick, who has personal experience of it, says it is usually some form of “self-punishment.” However, the motivation to self-harm can be varied. According to Professor Glyn Lewis of the University College London, “It’s a very heterogeneous group of people who self-harm, and there are a variety of reasons why people might start.”

Self-injury can be a way of communicating or expressing emotional distress. It can also be a way to shift attention away from a troubling thought or feeling, to escape from a deep hurt or negative thought, or to numb miserable feelings. In some cases, it is also to get attention. Young people who are confused may find physical pain easier to deal with than the distress they feel inside.

Self-harm is a counterproductive strategy to resolve an emotional issue. To label it as simply attention seeking, though, can be potentially risky. If you or a family member is self-harming, it is more productive to understand the emotions that lie underneath this powerful manifestation. Certainly,
finding professional help is positive because in some cases self-harm is linked, not only with relationship or work issues, but with an untreated emotional condition—depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, or a personality disorder.

 

The Treatment That Works: More Than a “Band-Aid”

Inflicting pain to dull another kind of pain may sound senseless, but this is how DSH is seen by some people practicing it. However, like slapping a Band-Aid on a serious wound, it won’t help at all in the long run. A more appropriate response is to seek help from an independent therapist contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – Southern Pines, NC.

If a loved one is practicing DSH, stay nonjudgmental. Shame will often push people to do this in secrecy, and the sense that you regard them with anger or disdain may make things worse. To be helped, they must see you and the help in a positive light. A therapist contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – Southern Pines, NC, can help you approach the matter with sensitivity and care.

DSH is a family concern. If you or your child is struggling with it and you know that the issues that need to be addressed involve the family, the therapist independently contracted with CCS can also help with family therapy.

Confidential / Private Sessions

Carolina Counseling Services – Southern Pines, NC contracts with Licensed professional counselors/therapists/psychologists who provide a friendly, caring, and relaxed atmosphere in the Southern Pines/Pinehurst/Aberdeen/Raeford area. These independently contracted therapists/counselors assist adult individuals, couples, families, and children with resolving issues and getting back to enjoying their lives. Whether you are non-military or military, the independently contracted therapists with Carolina Counseling Services – Southern Pines, NC are able and happy to assist you!

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  • Kristin Vernon, MSW, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 5+) Children, Adolescents, Couples, Families, Anxiety, Depression, Self-Esteem Issues, Grief and Loss, Communication Skills, Divorce, Adjustment Disorders, Mood Disorders, Coping Skills, Parenting, Family Conflict, Marital Conflict, Relationship Issues
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  • Jaime J. Fitzpatrick MS, LPCS, LCAS

    Specializes in: (Ages 18+) Adults, Families and Couples, Anxiety, PTSD, Trauma and Abuse Recovery, Depression, Military Life Issues, Adjustment Disorder, Relationship Issues, Marriage Counseling, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Trauma Focused Therapy, Addictions, Emotional Disturbance, Coping Skills, Impulsivity, Grief and Loss, Self-Esteem
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  • Kelly ErkenBrack, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 3+) Children, Teens, Adults, Couples and Families. Anxiety, Depression, Grief and Loss, Mood Disorders, Trauma, Adjustments and Life Transitions, ADHD, Behavioral Issues, Parenting, Relationship Concerns, Self Esteem
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  • Kathryn Wiens, PsyD. HSP-P

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  • Tracy Goldberg, MSW, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 5+) Individuals, Adolescents, Adults, Couples, Children and Families. Attention Deficit, Oppositional Defiance, Behavioral Issues, Peer Relationships, Family Conflict, Depression, Anxiety, Parenting Anxiety, ADHD, Self-Esteem Issues, Family Conflict/Divorce, Marriage Counseling, Adjustment Disorders, Relationship Issues, Grief and Loss, Communication Skills, Behavioral Issues, Coping Skills, Mood Disorders, Parent Skill Building, Christian Counseling upon request
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    Location: Southern Pines, NC