Self-harm is repeated and deliberate behavior intended to injure oneself physically and without a suicidal (conscious) purpose.
The most common forms of self-harm (but not the only ones) are cuts to the skin, burns, concigarrillos, or a blow to the head against the wall.
In this article you will find the keys to understanding self-harm and the logic to which they react.
Why would anyone want to get hurt?
The image of someone inflicting cuts on their arms with a razor blade can be frightening to many and incomprehensible to most, especially since there is no firm purpose in ending their life. . then What causes people to self-harm?
For a long time, it was believed that self-harm was a symptom of psychosis, contrary to the popular belief that they should get attention. Both ideas are probably wrong, more recent explanations would indicate that self-harm is rather an attempt on the part of the person to put an end to states of great psychic tension.
Traumatic experiences in childhood make a person more vulnerable to stress due to an impaired process of brain maturation. Some of the main risk factors include sexual abuse, abuse, emotional neglect, and dismissal by referral. Here are some common experiences in the personal history of individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD).
Borderline personality disorder and self-harm
Self-injurious behaviors are very common in BPD; in fact, one of the criteria to consider in determining the diagnosis of TLP is the presence of a recurring behavior, attitude or suicide threat or self-injurious behavior. Almost everyone who has TLP self-injures at least occasionally.
However, self-harm is not an exclusive symptom of BPD, can also be seen in depression, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.. In fact, being physically injured is not unique to humans either, for example cases can be found among other primates, such as some monkeys that bite themselves.
Another criterion to take into account when diagnosing TLP is the occurrence of serious dissociative experiences.
Look for pain to move the dissociation
During the self-harm ritual, there is from the start a high psychic tension which is accompanied by a decrease in the perception of pain. The person performs self-harm to reduce this tension, after being injured she is relaxed (injuries generate endorphins) and then begins to feel discomfort from the damage.
The strategy used is so effective in reducing emotional stress that, in the absence of another method of finding relief, the person falls back into the behavior, generating a habit.
In people with BPD, unlike other people, distraction does not help them as an emotional self-regulation technique, and so they resort to drastic strategies.
At first, the injured person finds momentary relief in his psychic overload, then comes the guilt and shame, as well as the concern to hide his wounds. These can cause or worsen social isolation, generate additional discomfort and create a vicious cycle.
Additionally, some of the consequences of self-harm can be a sustaining factor: attracting attention, provoking parents, and / or building relationships with other affected people.
What is this psychic tension that leads them to self-harm?
Often times, people who seek relief from these self-destructive behaviors try to let go of the dissociative experiences. Dissociation is an alteration or division of psychic functions (such as memory) which it mainly affects the level of self-perception or the environment.
Depersonalization is a dissociative phenomenon and is typical of PTSD, as well as other forms of psychological trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
People who suffer from depersonalization are seen as distant, unreal or strange. Often these sensations are accompanied by a reduction in the perception of pain..
Some research suggests that people with BPD have a higher pain tolerance threshold than the general population, and this increased pain tolerance would increase when pre-injury stress is experienced.
This form of altered pain sensitivity is a clue that can be altered, Be able to approach that of the normal population after psychotherapeutic treatment and after having stopped self-injuring.
This behavior occurs more in girls and young women, possibly because they tend to direct negative feelings towards themselves. In fact, the prevalence of BPD is much higher in women than in men, as opposed to antisocial personality disorder, which is based on inattention and the violation of the rights of others.
How to detect self-injury?
Here are the red flags to keep in mind:
- Frequent unexplained scars.
- Clothing to disguise, refusal to undress in the presence of someone or to go to the swimming pool.
- Store razor blades, broken glass, or drying material.
- Self-Injury Drawings.
- Non-specific signs: isolation, mood swings, risky behavior, low self-esteem and impulsivity.
The triggers that lead to self-harm can be frustrating interpersonal experiences. Sometimes it can also be behavior emulated by peers as a sign of belongingAlthough regular self-harm to overcome stress is usually a sign of serious emotional problems.
Alternatives to self-harm
To rule out self-injurious behaviors as well as other clues that explain the emotional pain the person is suffering from, appropriate emotional regulation strategies must be learned and be able to work on the traumatic elements that are at the origin of the discomfort.
Certain mindfulness-based meditation techniques can help with emotional regulation and are in fact one of the components of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, which is the therapy of choice for BPD and has also been shown to be effective for The behaviour. Self-harm, suicidal thoughts and / or behaviors, eating disorders, and drug or drug abuse.
Regarding the trauma that usually accompanies self-injurious behaviors, it may be helpful to use EMDR, a very useful technique for treating post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Schmal, C. (2014, May). Neural basis of self-injury. Mind and Brain, 66, 58-63.