Self Mutilation is a Behavioral Addiction

Imagine, for a moment, if you can, feeling so empty, filled with rage, hopeless, so sad, and so angry that the only way you can cope is to harm yourself because at least that pain is real and reminds you that you are human. Cutting and slicing yourself is your release, the way that you cope.

Self harm takes the pain away for a while but then the feelings come back and once again your start hurting yourself. This makes you feel even more guilt and you know that what you are doing isn't right but you just can’t stop. The distress and emotional pain is just too deep and too intense. However, the self harm will never fix the problems that started the self harm in the first place; it actually makes the initial problems worse.

People that hurt themselves like to keep what they are doing a secret because they are ashamed which creates even more of a cross to bear. In addition to all that pain a big secret needs to be concealed. This will affect every aspect of your life and is all consuming. It makes you feel even more worthless and more trapped.

There are many different methods of self harm, although cutting is the most common. These are considered to be behavioral addictions and some of the other methods include burning, hitting yourself, sticking sharp things into the skin, not allowing sores or wounds to heal, and swallowing toxic chemicals or items not intending for swallowing.

Self harm is addictive once it passes the impulse stage. It starts to control you and then becomes a compulsive behavior that cannot be stopped without professional help. There are many treatments available for self harm but professional help is definitely necessary.

  • 19 Commentsby Likes|Date
  • I entirely disagree with your last statement. Professional help is not definitely necessary. It may make it easier for some people, but I have been successfully managing my addiction to self harm for a long time without professional help. I did TRY seeking help, but if anything, they made it worse.

    It is great to see someone else raising awareness of it though! Thank you for sharing how it can affect people :)
  • I agree with Harriet. I used to be a cutter, cut myself for a long time due to some difficult things I was experiencing at the time. There was no way I could tell anyone, just trust me on that and this is the first time that I'm talking about it online. I never received or wanted professional help and I haven't cut myself for the past 6 years. 

    That said, some self-harmers can't stop by themselves. Those are the ones that needs outside help. Thank you for starting this thread, great to see some awareness. 
  • In terms of self harm, the worst thing I ever did, was bang my head against the wall. I know that feeling all so well, when you are dead tired of your endless mental issues and emotions that try to consume you, and all you want is to literally beat yourself up, so that you feel more real.
    I had a friend who cut her arms and legs. She was a heroin addict and, sadly, fell into prostitution, to support her habit. The shame and guilt made her hurt herself. Thankfully, she managed to get into a program for her addiction and was able to completely turn around her life. 
  • I believe some people may have different motivations, other than being reminded they're human. Some feelings are worse than physical pain. And if you can feel enough pain it'll distract you from the bad feelings. It can ground you, I guess. Its a bit like the way my dad, whenever I would complain about some little pain like a splinter or what not, would always tell me he could make it feel better. All he would have to do is smash my hand with the hammer. He was joking, of course. But its just like that, but when smashing your hand with the hammer would be easier to deal with.
  • I self harm also and found that most professionals only made the problem worse! I was told when I cut that I was just doing it for attention - despite cutting in hidden spots and not wanting to talk about it. Their solution for it was to just medicate me until I couldn't function. They thought if I was allowed to talk about why I did it - it was just giving me attention for doing it! I've found out that very few professionals really have the skills to deal with patients that self harm, most of them just have an extreme distain for them.
  • I had a problem biting my nails and ingesting some bits of my fingers in the process. I actually ate a lot skin from my fingers over the years. I didn't think much about it, it was such a compulsive thing I had been doing since I was a kid.  I thought it was ok and normal, just part of my life, but truth is this kind of habits are so disgusting and unhealthy... 

    Doing that exposes us to a lot microbes and diseases... I can't understand how I could do that almost my entire life. So glad it's over. 
  • I knew a guy back in college that was prone to mutilating himself. He always had all these nasty scars around his arms and neck. He was involved in the goth lifestyle and was a well-known substance abuser. While he was pleasant to be around when he was sober, his dark side was something that was difficult for him to detach. I always sensed that this fellow hated himself intensely, perhaps it was something that was a perpetual problem since childhood. 
  • I practiced self-mutilation when I was in high school. I was really depressed and anxious in my teenage years, but no one in my family knew about what I have went through before. I have just kept them all to myself. Good thing is that I was able to overcome these issues, thanks to my faith in God. But yeah, self-mutilation is a very serious matter. If you know someone who does it, try to offer some support. It will be greatly appreciated by them. 
  • I've now been self harm free for almost two months. It actually took finding the right psychiatric medication to help my anxiety and impulsiveness for me to finally be able to stop. Last time I did it was near the end of Oct. I've had times I've wanted to since getting on new medicine but I've been able to control myself and not do I.
  • It's just weird because people generally don't like to be hurt or suffer that's why they resort to vices to "escape." However, in the case of self-mutilation, people inflict pain on themselves in an attempt to escape from their inner demons, right? I sometimes cannot fathom the logic. I don't exactly equate behavioral problems with addiction. It's a different kind of problem altogether. Addiction's usually external while a behavioral issue is more internal. Nevertheless, if you see someone in such a situation, we shouldn't just brush them off and leave them to themselves. We should do our best to help them return to their normal self.
  • I can sympathize with the feeling of wanting to see your pain manifested after all as human beings we all laugh and cry... and hurt. If the pain isn't acknowledged sometimes it won't feel real. I haven't tried self-mutilation before but I see how one can see it as shameful because scars are earned and all that. Seeking help in any way will already lead you in a good path. Don't concern yourself with professional help if you think talking to your bestfriend or parents have given you some insight.
  • Self-harm can even lead to serious infections, if the object you're using to do this is not clean. I have always cleaned the razor and sterilized my skin after the "job" was done. It's such a paradox, I was feeling suicidal but cared about my health and did not want to catch any (eventually lethal) disease.
  • Thank you for this post, @chinne01. A lot of people should read your words. This knowledge is pretty basic, and yet it's completely alien to most people who feel entitled to talk down to selfharmers and call them stupid. 
    @nergaahl I can relate to this alot, I am always paranoid about the wound getting infected (even though it's not deep at all, and I used a new razorblade). Once I had to go to hospital to get the wound checked, because it was sort of deep (didn't need stitches in the end, but as it didn't stop bleeding for over an hour and was wide, I got really scared). The doctors treated me like shit for being a selfharmer. It makes me want to cry even when I think about it now. 
  • @elfprincess I have never told anyone about the fact I self-harm, because of its stigma, there's only one person who knows about it and she found this out incidentally, when they entered the bathroom while I was showering. There are a lot of prejudices about people who mutilate themselves, but, just like a drug addiction, it is hard to be understood by someone who has never experienced this. They just judge, without trying to look deeper into the problem.
  • @nergaahl Yeah, I've been the same. I started seeing myself as a disgusting trash because of the stigma, and felt a kind of hate for girls my age who were comfortable with showing their fresh cuts to the whole world. Nowadays I don't feel like that anymore, but I used to feel really angry about this kind of people, since I was so obsessed about no-one seeing the real me.
  • @Elfprincess I assume that girls who did this felt the constant need for receiving attention (which is also a behavioral disorder). It's not surprising to see more and more teenagers who self-harm because they want to be comforted and in the spotlight. But this is no thing to be fooling around with. It is a serious issue with real causes.
  • You don't really need professional help to cut off on any bad habits you might have, really. The power lies within you, and everyone should know that. 

    @nergaahl It definitely is a serious issue, I completely agree. Maybe if people were a bit more serious... 
  • There was a time when I was really struggling. I had just came out of a long term marriage and I was living alone. I was starting over and I was depressed. I cried a lot and I hated myself. I started cutting myself. I had heard of people doing it in the past but never really understood it until to happened to me. I would cut where people couldn't see but it felt good to me. Thankfully I recognized early on that it was a problem and I got control of it. I started dealing with all the other problems in my life and slowly the need to cut went away. It was a struggle but I got through it on my own. It was at one of the lowest points in my life. I am thankful it never got too out of hand but I have the scars today to remind me of where I once was.
  • I also agree with Harriet - I self-harmed for a  really long time, and held back from telling anyone.  When I finally "got help" it was from people who didn't understand cutting and gave me treatment for something completely different.  I absolutely didn't get the help I needed from professionals or any other adults.  Cutting was something I simply stopped doing once I realized how terribly self-destructive it was.  It was a realization that took a long time - no doubt - and the end didn't come easily ... but it came through my own will and determination.  Not through professional help.  Unlike other addictions I think self-harm is something that one can get over under one's own power.
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