Understanding Trauma & Violence
Managing Trauma Impact

Question

Why do I self-harm and what is the best way to stop?

Answer

First of all, talking about self-injury is really hard, so thank you for asking this question. We have asked our favorite psychiatrist to help answer this. We promise you, tons of other people are wondering the same thing. We believe in honest conversations about uncomfortable topics, ​but sometimes talking about self-injury can be triggering. If now is not a good time, bookmark this post for later. If you need help, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 800-273-8255. Let’s start with ground rules. Self-injury does not make you “crazy,” you aren’t “broken,” nor are you “just seeking attention.” These are all super unhelpful myths (or lies) from people who don’t understand how the brain works. I talk to people about self-injury as a “force quit.” When we have a ton of files open on our computer while also launching two new programs, the wires and messages can get crossed and the system can freeze. If you are like me, you sit there for a while in growing frustration, clicking wildly between windows, which only slows things down more. Then you hit “force quit” and the computer stops in its tracks and attempts to re-boot. While the human brain is much more complicated than a computer, we all have experiences that can lead to “crossed wires” making it challenging to process the stress and emotions of daily life. Our brains can get “stuck” and we literally don’t know what to do. Self-injury can become our “force quit” command. There is nothing wrong with seeking ways to “re-boot.” Everyone (and I mean everyone- yes even the most Zen person you know) has strategies for coping with his or her own processing jams. Concern comes when those strategies involve harming yourself. Talking to a professional about your specific wiring can be helpful. That said, there are other re-boot strategies to consider. I find tools from the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery to be a great place to start. See the link in our bio for more information. Their whole website is full of accurate and helpful info on healing from self-injury—I recommended them to many people in my practice. Hope and Healing, The Anonymous Psychiatrist

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