Self Harm Help For Parents
I am going to create a little self harm help for parents guide in this article in hope clearing up the misconceptions that surround the stigma that is self injure. For those of you new to Mental Health Treatments I am going to be using the words self harm, self injury and possibly self-inflicted violence as they all mean exactly the same thing. In this guide I will break down what constitutes self injury, the different types of self harmers, what not to say and what you can do to help your child from stopping this dangerous addiction.
What Is Self Harm
Self harm can be defined as any act that causing pain on oneself on purpose. Self injury can be anything from cutting to burning to pulling out hair to breaking bones. When I was very young I used to cause harm to myself by creating eraser burns on my arms. There is a million ways one can cause harm to themselves.
Why Do People Self Harm
Basically self injury is a coping mechanism that causes an immediate reaction. When we are talking about long term self harmers it tends to revolve around anxiety and self control. The person will resort to causing pain to themselves in order to shock their brains out of the emotion that they are in. This will momentarily bring the brain to the pain and not what they are feeling. The other side of this is for young people who find that they are out of control in their daily lives where the act of self harm brings something that they can control if only briefly. There are people who do self harm in what the people in the white coats like to call attention seeking behavior but we will cover that later in this self harm guide for parents later on .
Self Harm As An Addiction
I need to make this very clear self-harm is an addiction that is as dangerous as substance abuse and as life consuming. The problem with self injury is that it does everything as advertised. It makes you focus on something other than the garbage in your head. it is a ritual that the person fully controls from start to finish. Self harm normally makes the person calm down and get the stress out. The problem like any addiction is soon that tiny mark is not enough and more and more is needed to get the same result. What starts as the answer to a small situation becomes the answer to everything. Like other addictions people recovering from self harm tend to have a couple of relapses before finally being able to abstain from self injury
The Two Types Of Self Harmers
This is going to get some people upset, however I would like to say it is important to get out.
(A) The Attention Seeker – When it comes to a teen or adult for that matter that is seeking attention from self harming we still have a problem that needs to be solved. As the only way the person to cry out for help is by causing harm to their own bodies. The people in this particular category tend to self harm on a very limited basis that is usually discovered quickly. As I mentioned there is still a problem here that needs medical attention
(B) The Long Term Self Harmer – This is a category that I used to belong to and the group that causes the most concern to. The person in this category will go to great length to not allow anyone to see the marks on their bodies. They tend to pick places on the body that is easily to conceal and they also tend to cause the most damage. Long term self harmers know all the tricks of the trade and have developed ways to keep their dangerous addiction hidden. To give you an idea I spent three months on the psych ward where my room was searched on the regular yet I was able to self harm nearly every day. Due to the length of time they have been self harming beating this addiction is that much harder.
Normally long term self harmers are found out either by accident or a medical emergency. It could be that a doctor or even a parent sees the injuries and hopefully responds appropriately by addressing the issue or that there self harm injury was to such a degree it requires medical intervention.
There are signs of a teen that has been self harming for a long time and they are the following:
(A) They were inappropriate clothing for the season. Wearing long sleeve shirts or pants when the temperature is soaring
(B) Prone To Accidents – Seems like your child constantly has bandages on their arms or legs and playing it off as another accident
(C) The teen refusing to get changed in front of you or another family member or their peers. It could be they are trying to keep their wound hidden
(D) Injury That Is Failing To Heal – It could be that the wound on your teens arm or leg is not healing because it is constantly being reopened and reinjured
What Not To Do Or Say With A Teen Who Self Harms
– Do not pretend you did not see this. Too often parents who discover that their child is self harming ignore the wounds in the hopes that it will go away. Whether your child is seeking attention or is a long term self harming this is a medical issue that needs to be address immediately. Whether it is funky teen hormones, depression, anxiety, bipolar or borderline personality disorder this requires the intervention of a professional.
– Over the years I have heard every threat regarding self harm from nurses and people in the white coats that you can imagine. From your going to develop an infection which will lead to your arm falling off to you are going to regret those scars when you get older to your body is a gift and you are destroying it. Needless to say none of them work. I don’t care about tomorrow I just need to get through today and self harm enables that. When it comes to self harm thinking it is immediate and not long term.
How You Can Help A Teen Who Self Harms
It is essential that your teen understands and knows that they can come to you when the urge to self injury approaches. If the teen has no where to turn when these urges take place chances are they will turn back to what has worked for them in the past.
Come up with a list of activities that you can do when the self injury urges approach. Having a cup of hot chocolate or playing cards or anything that they can focus on that will keep their focus off of self harm and keep their hands busy. Use this time to talk about what brought on the urge to self harm and work through it.
Understand that is an addiction and a coping mechanism. In order to beat the addiction other coping mechanisms need to be developed to replace it. I used to write a lot for my first blog when I was dealing with urges and that worked for me. Getting all the emotion out and being able to explore what I was dealing with helped on multiple levels
I hope you have found some help in my Self Harm Guide For Parents and if you have any questions please leave it in the comment space below