Self-harm can be seen as an attempt to cope with problems, release emotional pain or distract you from reality. It includes any act of self-injury that is intentional. Often there is deep emotional distress or trauma at the root of self-harm. The act is carried out to temporarily release painful emotions, but the sense of relief only lasts a short while and then the need to injure oneself returns. So what causes self-harm?
Most common causes of self-harm:
- Feeling helpless, hopeless, discouraged, tense, frustrated or angry.
- Feeling emotionally numb or empty. Self-harm is precipitated by the need to feel something, even if it is painful.
- Perfectionism, self-criticism or low self-esteem.
- The need to replace negative feelings with positive feelings.
- The perception of the forgiveness of faults through an act of self-punishment.
- Deflecting attention from emotional pain to physical pain.
- Communication of distressful feelings to the world at large.
- Internet, printed media, music and other outlets may spur on the need to experiment with self-harm.
- Peers or social groups who practice self-harm can act as an influence.
- Being bullied or abused.
- Traumatic incidents and memories such as someone’s death.
- Eating disorders often cause self-harm.
- Bipolar, borderline or post traumatic stress disorder.
- Medical disorders.
One of reasons why self-harm becomes addictive is that the body releases natural painkillers, known as beta endorphins, in response to physical injury. Endorphins also create “pleasant” feelings in the brain. By hurting themselves, self-harmers unintentionally release mood altering chemicals that make them feel good. Because self-harm activates this “rush”, it can become addictive.
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