Self-harm is not typically suicidal behaviour, although there is the possibility that a self-inflicted injury may result in life-threatening damage. Although the person may not recognise the connection, self-harm often becomes a response to profound and overwhelming emotional pain that cannot be resolved in a more functional way.
The motivations for self-harm vary as it may be used to fulfill a number of different functions. These functions include self-harm being used as a coping mechanism which provides temporary relief of intense feelings such as anxiety, depression, stress, emotional numbness and a sense of failure or self-loathing. It can also be a direct result of pyschosis which could have been brought about by any of these functions.
Psychosis (from the Greek ψυχή “psyche”, for mind/soul, and -ωσις “-osis”, for abnormal condition) means abnormal condition of the mind, and is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state often described as involving a “loss of contact with reality”. People suffering from psychosis are said to be psychotic.
People experiencing psychosis may report hallucinations or delusional beliefs, and may exhibit personality changes and thought disorder. Depending on its severity, this may be accompanied by unusual or bizarre behaviour, as well as difficulty with social interaction and impairment in carrying out the daily life activities.
Functional causes of psychosis include the following:
Generating alternative behaviours that the sufferer can engage in instead of self-harm, and shaping the use of such behaviours, is one successful behavioural method that is employed to avoid self-harm. Techniques, aimed at keeping busy, may include journaling, taking a walk, participating in sports or exercise or being around friends when the sufferer has the urge to harm themselves.
The removal of objects used for self-harm from easy reach is also helpful for resisting self-harming urges. The provision of a card that allows sufferers to make emergency contact with counselling services should the urge to self-harm arise may also help prevent the act of self-harm.
If you or anyone you know is involved in self-harm, time is of the essence! The longer it goes on the more damaging physically and mentally the condition becomes. Help IS out there.