Consider if you’ve heard these phrases before, or maybe you’ve said them yourself:

“If you self-harm, you’re suicidal.”

“Only ‘goth’ or ‘emo’ kids self-harm.”

“It’s not self-harm if you don’t cut yourself.”

“People who self-harm are looking for attention.”

These are common stereotypes surrounding self-harm, which is characterized as “any behavior where someone causes harm to themselves, usually to help cope with difficult or distressing thoughts and feelings.” The perceptions surrounding self-harming are way out of line, and discredit what many people face daily. Mental Health America states that as many as 4% of adults in the United States struggle with this, and approximately 15% of teens report self-injury. College students are at an even greater risk, with rates between 17% and 35%.

Sociologist Patricia Adler, author of her book titled, “The Tender Cut: Inside the Hidden World of Self-Injury”, explain for U.S. News that just because people self-harm, doesn’t mean they want to commit suicide. She stated,

“…It’s not like a stepping stone – [that] if you try to self-injure, you’re going to graduate to suicide. It’s an anti-suicidal gesture because it’s a way of trying to feel better, rather than [ending one’s life].”

As expressed earlier, self-harm can be experienced by anyone. While teenagers and young adults are at high risk for this, middle age and older are also struggling with this. For example, a middle-aged woman explained her experience with self-injury on The Mighty. Here is a clip from her story:

“I am an adult who self-harms…I am a qualified high school teacher and have taught in schools in various parts of the world. I achieved all this while being a secret self-harmer…I am trying my best to overcome it between medications for my disorders and a lot of therapy…I need a lot of support and less judgment.”

Self-harm can occur in a variety of ways, but most people recognize it by cutting, because it’s typically the most visual. Other examples may include burning, scratching, banging or hitting body parts, interfering with wound healing, inflicting wounds or purposefully breaking bones, hair pulling, ingesting toxic substances – like bleach – on purpose, and more.

Lastly, and most importantly, people who self-harm are not seeking attention. In fact, it’s the opposite – most harm themselves in places that people would never see because they feel alone. If you struggle with self-harm, know that you are not alone. Help is available to you and there are healthier coping strategies that you can learn through therapy. If you need someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Seek the help you need today.

New Vista Behavioral Health is home to several world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery treatment programs. If you or your loved one is ready to begin treatment, call us today at 888-316-3665 for a consultation.

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