Often, people assume that self-harm and suicide are the same things. They are not, although separating one from the other can be difficult. With suicide, the goal is to end the pain with death while self-harm is more of a coping mechanism. Most people who attempt suicide live, but carry the scars (physical or emotional) with them for the rest of their lives. Some people consider suicide to be cowardly and weak, and this kind of thinking plays a huge part in why so many people fail to seek help before it is too late. This stigma carries into self-harm as well, which can escalate the behavior into an actual suicide attempt.

For most people who engage in self-harm, it is a response to some overwhelming emotion, be it anger, sadness or self-loathing. Self-harm takes a variety of forms, the most common being cutting which, according to the British Medical Journal, accounts for 64.6 percent of self-harm cases. There are, however, other, less common forms like poisoning, biting, scratching and hair pulling. While both suicide attempts and self-harm often go unreported, self-harm is by far less likely to be hidden.

Compounded Risk

Several things can put someone at a higher risk of self-harm, among them mental illness, trauma, and addiction. Both addiction and self-harm are coping mechanisms, and active addiction tends to leave people with lower self-esteem, fewer effective coping skills, and reduced impulse control. When combined with mental illness or trauma, addicts might find further release in self-harm. Studies have shown that physical and emotional pain are processed in the same part of the brain. When experiencing either, the brain produces dopamine, the “pleasure” hormone, as well as in response to certain drugs. Addiction then, and self-harm, activate the brain in the same way. Self-harm, while not technically addictive, can work hand in hand with drug use. Both of them trick the brain into creating dopamine, which in turn creates a sense of comfort and ease.

Overcoming these challenges is complex and involves a personalized system. Both addiction and self-harm damage the body and brain and when you decide to find healthier ways of coping, you will need to build new systems of managing stress and strong emotions. It usually involves a range of treatments to address core reasons behind the addiction, as well as medical support, since addiction and self-harm are biologically based. If you or a loved one are living with addiction, reach out now. Get the help you deserve. There is a way out of active addiction and mental illness. Fort Worth Recovery’s experts are trained to help. Call us at 844.332.1807 or contact us online today.


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