Self-abuse is a misunderstood behavior that many people are not aware of, but it is estimated by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that almost three million people in the United States engage in this destructive behavior. Measurable statistics are difficult to determine, as self-abuse is often just one component of a larger problem that may also involve drug abuse or addiction.
What Is Self-Abuse?
Any behavior that a person performs on themselves that is deliberate, repetitive, and non-lethal is considered self-abuse. The concern is that these self-inflicted behaviors could result in death, and when coupled with addiction the risk for suicide increases. The behaviors involved in self-abuse may include the following:
- Punching self or objects
- Inserting objects in body openings
- Bruising or breaking bones
- Some form of hair pulling
- Other various forms of bodily harm
Why Do People Self-Abuse?
People who self-abuse often cannot explain why they do it, but they may engage in such behaviors for the following reasons:
- Self-abusers may feel they cannot stop
- It seems to bring a form of release
- It allows participants to feel that they have control
- Individuals may be seeking attention or help
- Self-abusers may feel that they deserve it
- Individuals may see self-abuse as a form of stress relief
Another reason a person self-abuses is that he or she uses this behavior as a coping mechanism in response to the following:
- Over or under-stimulated
- Unable to express their feeling
- Fearful of relationships and responsibilities
The cycle of Self-Abuse and Addiction
Many people who suffer from self-abuse are struggling to find a way to handle stress, negative feelings or an inability to deal with a variety of issues. These same challenges often lead a person to use drugs or alcohol. At the core of both self-abuse and addiction are a series of issues that the person feels drive him or her to these behaviors.
Treatment for Self-Abuse and Addiction
Many people who self-abuse believe that these behaviors are the only way to relieve negative feelings, but any relief provided will be temporary. When self-abuse and addiction are coupled, professional inpatient treatment is recommended for the following reasons:
- A person is in an environment that supports healing and recovery
- A person is allowed to focus exclusively on the issues that led to the cycle of destruction
- There are a variety of therapies available to help the person including Cognitive Behavioral
Therapy provides the person with tools to understand the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Another therapy option is interpersonal therapy which gives a person skills to develop interpersonal relationships and understand how abusive behaviors interfere with healthy relationships.