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Debunking myths of self harm
by Storyteller. March 4th 2014, 12:03 AM

Debunking myths of self harm
By Jenny (coolkid98)

This article describes elements of self harm that may be triggering for some members; therefore, it is encouraged to utilise the Alternatives to Self Harm thread before reading further.

There are many myths about self harm and why people self harm. The majority of these views are false and lead to stereotypical views of self harm, which is why it is important to debunk these myths. Some of the myths prevent self harmers from telling others about their self harm due to fear of being labelled as "emo" or discriminated against in other ways. Most people have heard of self harm, but due to factors such as the media's portrayal of self harm and lack of experience with self harm, many people may not know exactly what self harm is.

Myth: People self harm in order to gain attention.
Fact: Many people who self harm do so in secret and cover up their injuries. People who self harm are often fearful of what will happen if anyone finds out about their self harm. According to the Mental Health Foundation, many self harmers are self-conscious of their injuries and experience a great deal of guilt as a result of hurting themselves. This also pushes self harmers to hide their injuries, rather than "showing them off" out of a desire to receive attention.

Myth: Self harm is a suicide attempt.
Fact: Self harmers donít always want to die. For many self harmers, self harm is a coping mechanism used to get through everyday life. It is used to help people cope with feelings that may not be expressed otherwise. Many researchers have noted that self harm refers to a spectrum of behaviors, and the literature provides support for six functional models of self harm. The "antisuicide" model actually states that self harm functions as a "suicide replacement, a compromise between life and death drives" (Suyemoto, 1998).

Myth: Self harm is cutting.
Fact: Self harm is any way of intentionally hurting oneself physically, such as scratching, pulling out hair, burning, picking and poisoning (including overdose of substances), among other things. It is a way of releasing feelings, either physical or emotional. It also can be a way of controlling something if it seems to be out of control.

Myth: People who self harm can stop if they want to.
Fact: Self harm can become compulsive and therefore can be really hard to stop. It is addictive because it is a way of distracting yourself from the feelings, as it takes your mind off the feelings and focusing it on the pain. Over the course of time, the brain may begin to connect the "false sense of relief from bad feelings to the [self harm]...and [the brain] craves this relief the next time tension builds" (KidsHealth.org, 2012). Just telling someone they need to stop because it's harmful won't help them stop; self harmers need support to assist them in stopping, and help to learn other coping strategies to get through self harm urges.

Myth: People who self harm like pain.
Fact: Sadomasochism is often sexual in nature, which is rarely the case with self harm. Self harm is about emotional pain, and is a way of releasing feelings through physical pain. For many self harmers, self harm is seen as the only way of coping with the situation. It isn't enjoyable and instead is a way to release feelings.

Myth: The wound isn't that bad; therefore the problem isn't bad.
Fact: Self harmers often experience overwhelming feelings and think that the only way to get rid of these is to self harm. This emotional distress should be taken seriously, no matter how seemingly insignificant the injuries are. Additionally, even "superficial" injuries can lead to serious infections or poor self-image, which may hinder a person's efforts toward recovery.

Myth: A person is mentally ill if they self harm.
Fact: While it's true that some individuals with diagnosed mental disorders self harm, there are also individuals who self harm because they are enduring a difficult situation and don't have more adequate or healthy coping techniques. Self harm is a coping mechanism used to help with feelings experienced during times of stress or traumatic events. Self harm alone doesn't mean a person is mentally ill - it means that a person is struggling to cope with their emotions. They need support and for people to understand.

Myth: Only young girls self harm.
Fact: Although young people are more likely to have self harmed than adults, it is possible that anyone of any age and gender may have self harmed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 372,722 adults aged 65 and older were treated in United States emergency departments for self harm in 2005. Emotional pain can drive individuals of all backgrounds to resort to self harm.

People self harm for a variety of reasons and there are many ways of self harming. Self harmers need support from individuals who are understanding and won't judge or stereotype them. TeenHelp has a variety of resources, including our thread of Alternatives to Self Harm and list of international Hotlines.

Last edited by Storyteller.; March 4th 2014 at 02:21 AM.
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