Patients who self-injure can be as young as 12-years-old and can continue well into adulthood. More and more, kids are learning about the means and methods of how to induce self-injury to help control their emotional pain. Cutting, for instance, is the most common because it can be easily covered up.
It’s more common among girls to have these types of addictions but has been seen as boys as well. Children who self-injure will often battle with an eating disorder as well. They might also have a history of sexual, physical, and/or emotional abuse or it may be a sign of low self-esteem. It begins as a defense of what is going on in their personal lives and within their family. They may feel they have failed in one area of their lives and are looking for a way of taking back control.
Self-injury as a Sign for other Issues
Self-mutilation is a severe impulse control disorder that can often be associated with other psychiatric disorders. These include:
- Borderline personality disorder
- Substance abuse (alcoholism or drug abuse)
- Eating disorders (anorexia or bulimia)
- Antisocial personality disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
On the other hand, there are “regular kids” going through the adolescent struggle for self-identity, and using self-injury is a form of experimentation, similar to alcohol or drugs that are also common around this age range.
Physical Signs and Symptoms of Self-injury
Because self-harm addiction is often kept secret, it may be difficult to spot signs and symptoms. Physical self-injury symptoms may include:
- Scars, such as from burns or cuts
- Staring at or playing with scars
- Fresh cuts, scratches, or other wounds
- Small, linear cuts. Sometimes words are also cut in the body
- Broken bones
- Eye pressing
- Finger or arm biting
- Pulling out one’s hair
- Picking at one’s skin
- Claiming to have frequent accidents or mishaps
- Unexplained cuts and scratches, particularly when they appear regularly. ‘The cat did it’ is a commonly used excuse
Situational Signs and Symptoms of Self-injury
Aside from physical examples that are indicative of self-injury, there are circumstantial evidence that loved ones can be suspicious of. These warning signs that an individual might be engaging in self-injury include:
- Wearing pants and long sleeves in warm weather
- The appearance of lighters, razors, or sharp objects that one would not expect among a person’s belongings
- Low self-esteem
- Mood changes like depression or anxiety, out-of-control behavior
- Difficulty handling feelings
- Relationship problems
- Poor functioning at work, school, or home
- Creating artwork that features a lot of black or red
- May sit with a pillow covering their legs or quickly change sitting position when someone enters the room
- A person may be withdrawn or wishes to be alone
- The person may often hold ice to their skin
- The person may draw on their arms with a red marker, food coloring, or paint (a sign that they are wanting help)
- The person may wear a lot of bracelets or a rubber band on the wrist that they can snap whenever they need to (another sign of wanting to stop self-injury)
How to Begin Treatment
In order for healing to take place, the user must cease the form of self-injury and allow the feelings they are avoiding to surface. It is only then that they can begin a form of counseling and therapy to start processing those feelings. Self-mutilation treatment is most beneficial with one-to-one counseling, group therapy, and a daily program of recovery is implemented.
If you or someone you know is struggling with self-injury addiction, we can help. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer your questions on self-injury treatment and addiction.