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Self-Harm: It’s not always about ‘attention seeking’

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Self-harm happens all over the globe. It does not matter your age, gender, race, or what mental health disorders you have. 17% of the population has self-harmed at some point in their life, and 90% of the 17% of people started harming their self before the age of 18. It is more common for women to self-harm then men with a 3:1 ratio. Somewhere between 13% and 23.2% of people under the age of 18 self-harm and this is from all over the globe, not just in the U.S. 70% of individuals that hurt their self intentionally have tried to commit suicide at least once in their life.

What is Self-Harm?

Self-harm (also called as self-injuring) is when a person intentionally harms themselves for whatever reason. Many people who participate in self-harm use cutting, burning, scratching, banging a part of the body on something, or use some other method to hurt their self. The most popular method people use for self-injury is cutting.

You may be asking, “Why would someone want to hurt themselves?” There are plenty of circumstances and each person has their own personal reason.

Reasons Why People Self-Harm:

  • Some people self-harm when they feel like they cannot find relief due to emotional and/or physical pain.
  • People might hurt themselves because they are trying to keep from committing suicide.
  • Some people cannot find the right words to relay to others regarding how they are feeling inside.
  • Someone might self-harm in order to change their emotional pain into physical pain.
  • They might want to turn their emotional thoughts that no one can see into something that can be seen.
  • To lessen overwhelming emotional pain and thoughts.
  • Some people do it to feel like they are in control of what is happening to them.
  • To escape traumatic memories and thoughts.
  • People might feel like they need to punish themselves over how they are feeling or something they did or did not do.
  • To stop feeling numb or disconnected inside.
  • Some people even self-harm to be able to care for the wound(s) they caused.
  • There are some people that hurt themselves to reach out for help during a mental crisis and they may also allow their wounds to be visible.
  • Some might use hurting themselves as a coping mechanism when their healthy coping skills just aren’t helping at the time.

Many people that harm themselves try their hardest to cover up their fresh or healing wounds and sometimes they may dress differently like wearing a long sleeve t-shirt during hot days just so people do not see their scars and ask questions. Many people, after they find relief from hurting their self, end up feeling ashamed and guilty for harming themselves and having to deal with the aftermath like bandaging the wound. They may try to come up with something to say that they can tell people and lie about how they got injured.

Many people that self-injure are not seeking attention like some people might think. Self-harm is a personal thing for tons of people. They do not want others to even know that they hurt themselves, so they do their best to cover it up.

If someone seems like they are attention seeking, they really might just be desperate and are trying to ask for help when they cannot figure out the words to say. Some people, mainly under 18-years-old, might harm themselves but not badly, just to get attention and be able to say they are a cutter or burner. But not everyone is like that.

I, myself, self-harm, and it has never been for attention. I started cutting at the age of 12 when I could hear my mom pleading for my former step-dad to stop beating her up. At the time, I had never seen or heard about self-harm on TV, radio, or from another person. I was the only one I knew about that hurt themselves intentionally. While my moms’ door was closed, I grabbed a knife from the kitchen drawer and went and locked myself in the bathroom. I just started cutting my arm because I could not handle or control the situation that was at hand and I had so much anger and emotional pain building up. No one noticed the cut marks. After that, I did not really get into hurting myself until I was 14-years-old. I am now 36 and still self-harm from time-to-time but I try to hide my wounds or I will say it happened at work or come up with some other lie. I even slit the vein in my one foot and started bleeding out when I was 16-years-old. That is some of my story.

You should never judge someone if you know they self-harm. Chances are, they are going through a hard time and may be in a lot of emotional pain. They also could be trying to suppress memories of a traumatic event or events, or they also might be using self-harm as a means to prevent them from ending their life. People have their own personal reasons for self-injuring and they should not also need to feel like someone is judging them because of what they do to themselves and has to add that to their emotional pain too. You never know what someone could be going through or struggling with.

Samantha View All

Samantha is the author of "My Bipolar Mind: You're not alone," she is also a freelance writer, blogger, and mental health advocate who runs and manages her own mental health blog

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