Fall 2019

Self Harm is the act of deliberately harming or hurting one’s body. Though not often meant as a suicidal action, self-harm is very obviously detrimental for one’s physical and mental health. Certainly beware of the warning signs.

Self Harm Behaviors

Include cutting or burning oneself intentionally. It is typically done as a short-term physical way of relieving long-term emotional pain. However, these short-term actions often become habitual. And thus, they may lead to even more feelings of shame, regret, or emotional turmoil in the long-term.

Therefore in identifying self harm it is important to look out for warning signs of self-harm and intervene if you think a loved one is exhibiting some of them.

This one seems obvious, but it is the most tell-tale sign of self-harm. Excessive scars, often in patterns, are a huge red flag of self-harm.

1. Visible Scars

People who self-harm are typically very conscious of their scars, so they will try to keep them hidden. If you catch a glimpse of scars that you perhaps weren’t supposed to see, you may want to consider approaching the person for a private conversation.

Of course, it is important to respect the privacy of loved ones. But in the event of self-harm, immediate intervention is often necessary.

2. Wearing Long Sleeves and Pants (Even When the Weather Doesn’t Call for It)

Some people simply prefer to wear long sleeves or pants, even in warmer temperatures. One of the most obvious reasons being to prevent excessive sun exposure and harm to one’s skin. Hence, this can easily be a personal preference, but it can also be symptomatic of something deeper.

If you suspect a loved one is harming themselves, wearing long sleeves could be a way they are trying to cover it up. While the red flag doesn’t have to go up immediately, you should take note of any other signs that there could be a problem.

3. Reserved Behavior

If a loved one seems more reserved than they used to be, this could signify that they are going through emotional trauma. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are self-harming, but the possibility is very real.

It is important to be wary when a loved one becomes extremely private and shut off from the world seemingly out of nowhere. Even if they are not engaging in self-harm, they likely need help dealing with something difficult. Certainly ask if you can help or direct them to a professional for help.

4. Not Wanting to Be Touched or Checked

Some people have very clear boundaries that aren’t symptomatic of anything. If your loved one doesn’t want you to touch them, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are self-harming. However, if you noticed this behavior in combination with other signs for self-harm, there could be something going on.

As mentioned earlier, those who self-harm strive to hide their scars or wounds. They will not want you or others to touch them or get too close. If someone you suspect of self-harm is particularly sensitive to touch, this may be due to their desire to hide the problem.

5. Behavioral Instability

Those who self-harm are often trying to mask emotional pain. But that isn’t easy to do. Emotions tend to always find an outlet somewhere. And so, much of their pain and turmoil often manifests in other ways.

If your loved one seems particularly unstable or easy to upset, this could be symptomatic of their inner turmoil. In turn, their emotional chaos could lead to self-harm.

6. Constant Fresh Cuts or Wounds

If your loved one consistently has fresh wounds, they may be self-inflicted. While some people may be more prone to injuries, the fact that this is a constant occurrence certainly needs to prompt a closer look at the situation.

Of course, when asked about the matter, a person who self-harms will often blame a wound on something else. This may seem believable at first. But if they constantly have burns from a curling iron or cuts from a kitchen knife, something may be up.

7. An Expressed Sense of Hopelessness

This sign can be the most worrisome of all. Though self-harm isn’t typically a suicide attempt, the two can easily go hand-in-hand.

Often, those who self-harm are looking for escapes to avoid suicidal thoughts. However, they may find that self-harm doesn’t help their situation, and symptoms of their turmoil only intensify. So, if your loved one expresses feelings of hopelessness, it is crucial to find them help immediately.

Awareness Of Self Harm

Self Harm can be difficult to spot and can manifest in many different ways. It is important to be mindful, especially if a loved one is particularly prone to emotional troubles. By considering the above-mentioned seven warning signs, you can be better aware of what to look for and hopefully be able to prevent self-harming behavior in your loved ones.

If you would like to know more about self-harm, why it occurs, how to prevent it, and in what way professional intervention can help, please contact me.

Rebecca Phipps, MA, LPC, CCPS Ph: 469-213-6400 www.rebeccaphippslpc.com