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Self-Harm Awareness

Compared to suicidal thoughts, self-harm impulses have received less research and far fewer studies. This is troubling, because, as the University of Washington points out, the numbers of those engaging in self-harm behaviors are at least equal to those who contemplate suicide.

We know that when issues are not well studied, they are often not well understood—particularly by the public at large. This can easily lead to stigmatization of the issue, and of those who face it every day. Since March is Self-Harm Awareness Month, we wanted to turn our attention to the subject and open the conversation.

What is self-harm?

Self-harm, is defined as the act of intentionally causing harm to oneself, usually as a coping mechanism for emotional pain. Self-harm can take many forms, including:

  • cutting
  • burning
  • hitting
  • scratching

among others. And, as we discussed with Ilene Fishman, there are compelling reasons to think of disordered eating as self-harm (or self-harm-related) behaviors.

The reasons why people self-harm is complex and varied. Often, it is a way of coping with difficult emotions, such as anxiety, depression, or anger. It can also be a way of exerting control over one’s body or emotions, or a way of punishing oneself for perceived mistakes or shortcomings.

Self-harm is not a new phenomenon, but it has become increasingly prevalent in recent years, particularly among young people. Studies show that up to one in five adolescents and young adults engage in some form of self-injury. While self-harm is not a mental illness in itself, it is often associated with underlying mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, or borderline personality disorder.

The physical consequences of self-harm can be severe and long-lasting. Depending on the method used, self-injury can cause permanent scarring, nerve damage, or even death. In addition to physical harm, self-harm can also have a significant impact on an individual’s mental health and well-being. The shame, guilt, and isolation that often accompany self-injury can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair, making it difficult to seek help or connect with others.

What can I do about self-harm thoughts?

If you or someone you know is struggling with self-harm, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. Talking to a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional can be a first step in getting the support you need.

Treatment for self-harm often involves a combination of therapy, medication, and support from loved ones. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), for example, has been shown to be effective in treating self-harm. CBT helps individuals to identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors, and to develop healthier coping strategies for dealing with difficult emotions.

Recovery from self-harm is possible, but it may not be a simple process. Recovery requires the right support, treatment, and a commitment to healing. Remember, you are not alone, and there is always hope for a brighter future.


Built on the principles of assertive community treatment, Galen Hope is an eating disorder and mental health treatment center offering individualized treatment options that include Intensive Outpatient (IOP), supported housing, and Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP). As a “Community of Integrated Wellness,” we pride ourselves in fostering a thoughtful and meaningful care experience that can guide our clients on their road to recovery and increased quality of life, regardless of diagnosis. Galen Hope currently offers separate, age-specific programming for adolescents ages 12-17 and adults 18 and up, of all genders.

To learn more, or to join our community for integrated wellness, please contact us today.

Belong. Heal. Grow.

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