One of the symptoms common to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is self-injury. This can come in the form of cutting, burning, head-banging,hair-pulling, drinking toxic chemicals, and other forms of self-harm. Self-injury is sometimes regarded as one of the more shameful aspects of PTSD, in part, because of common myths associated with self-injury:
Actually, people usually self-harm in private and are ashamed to tell others about their behavior.
Most people self-injure to cope with anxiety, depression or trauma. They’re looking for a way to deal with pain or overwhelming feelings they can’t put into words. People who self-harm usually haven’t learned how to deal with dee[ pain and trauma on the inside, so they transfer the pain to the outside.
Self-harm is a way people try to cope with their pain, but it’s not effective for the long-term. People who self-injure aren’t necessarily suicidal, but they do have a greater likelihood of committing suicide than people who don’t self-injure.
People who struggle with PTSD should, first of all, know their triggers, such as smells, sounds, people, places, actions/procedures, etc. Emotions can also trigger self-harm, such as shame, guilt, anger, and loneliness. Once you know your triggers, you can work on strategies to overcome them.
Find someone you can talk to about your feelings–a trusted friend, counselor, teacher, or therapist. Talking can decrease the power of the emotion and the urge to self-injure.
Some of the following coping techniques for self-harm can be useful:
If you or someone you know is self-injuring, confide in someone. Deciding who to trust can be hard. Choose someone who accept you and will support you. For more help on how to walk through this process and figure out the reason you engage in your behavior, click HERE. For information on how to help a friend or loved one engagine in self-injury, click HERE.
If you’re not sure where to turn, call the S.A.F.E. Alternatives information line in the U.S. at (800) 366-8288 for referrals and support for cutting and self-harm. For helplines in other countries, see Resources and References below.
In the middle of a crisis?
If you’re feeling suicidal and need help right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the U.S. at (800) 273-8255. For a suicide helpline outside the U.S., visit Befrienders Worldwide.