Self-harm is a foreign concept to most, but to some it's a best friend, a means of survival, a go-to when experiencing any form of stress. Hurting one's self is a common symptom of mental illness, from depression & bipolar disorder (mood disorders) to borderline personality disorder & dissociative identity disorder (personality disorders).
Self-harm, also known as self-injury, is an unhealthy coping mechanism in which one intentionally cuts, burns, or somehow wounds one's self to relieve some kind of emotional pain, such as intense anger or frustration.
Long-Term Effects of Self-Harm
The long-term effects are where the major damage resides. Thanks to stigma & ignorant judgment, deep shame results from self-harm. There is guilt in harming myself merely because I know how judgmental & cruel others are when my wounds are exposed, possibly because weakness is how its viewed.
It's a shameful addiction, far more-so than other addictions. It causes deep fear in letting people in because there are far more judgmental, condemning, critical souls in this world than kind, compassionate, understanding ones.
Yet, at the same time, there can be deep personal pride or satisfaction in self-harming because the limits of pain & strength are being tested. Despite the huge sense of social shame, there is gratification in knowing I can tolerate & manage my physical & mental pain on my own, without assistance from others.
Self-harming addictions prevent healing & growth. It encourages a build-up of negative energy only to release it through self-harm. Rather than seeking healthy outlets for my negative feelings, I repeatedly return to a harmful outlet because its relief is addicting. I don't talk about the chaos in my brain because it's so painful & difficult to address. Instead, I resort to self-harm. There's no way my pain can be diffused, shared, & examined with this method, so it's a very unhealthy outlet. Self-harm only provides immediate, short-term relief, so to have it sustain my peace, I must continually return to it.
The longer this habit continues for, the more difficult it is to overcome the addiction. For example, a self-harmer who enters treatment within a few weeks or a couple months of having this behaviour will most likely find treatment successful, whereas someone like me who has struggled with it for nearly a decade may be what some mental health professionals call "treatment resistant" where effective treatment is much more challenging to achieve.
Quite often, the root of seeking this harmful habit can be traced back to family values. If the home commonly provided condemnation, negativity, judgment, insensitivity, a controlling hand, & punishment, then pain is familiar & comforting to that child. Therefore, self-harm--this punishing, negative, controlling act--may be seeking the familiar & a sense of home because it's comforting.
Unfortunately, self-harm is easily justified in an ill mind such as my own. Firstly, the pros outweigh the cons with self-harm, the relief being so significant that physical wounds become irrelevant. Secondly, I feel I am only hurting myself, so I don't have to feel bad about it for the sake of other people in my life. Therefore, I rarely, if ever, regret harming myself. This can also be traced back to low self-esteem.
Short-Term Effects of Self-Harm
Cutting myself has been a nine year addiction & continues to this day. It ceases all mental negativity & exerts peace, clarity, & mental sanity. If I'm angry, confused, depressed, hearing voices, experiencing a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) episode, feeling lost or lonely or afraid, self-harm relieves the negative emotions & instills a happy heart & a clear mind. If I am disconnected from reality, it grounds me in reality & roots me in my solid identity (rather than my ever-fluctuation identity).
Feeling out of control often is what leads me to self-harm. Self-harm helps me feel in control of myself, & it feels incredible & comforting & even empowering. I feel power over both my body (because I am in charge of what pain I experience) & my mind (because self-harm helps with clarity & grounding). It's a very self-soothing activity. I prefer physical pain to emotional pain because it's far more manageable.
My brain & body respond in crisis mode when mental chaos ensues. Instinctively, mental chaos possesses more urgency than anything else. Mental chaos feels like an emergency, so it takes precedence, whereas physical pain can actually calm me.
Self-harm is addicting just as alcohol or other substances or hobbies can be addicting: the urge can feel uncontrollable because there is the knowledge of its ability to provide relief, but it's only short-term relief so it continually keeps me coming back for more. Even just writing about it, I crave the blade gnawing at my flesh, each droplet of red juice relieving some demon plaguing me within. I long for the relief self-harm brings, even now as I reflect on its negative qualities.
Although it's not a healthy or appealing outlet, I struggle to let go of it. For now, the battle rages on, but I am confident that, someday, I shall be victorious in overcoming this decade-old demon.