*This is a collaborative guest post
Described as an act of inflicting physical or psychological damage to the self, self-harm remains a significant health concern across the world. Hitting yourself is an important example of self-harm and remains a prevalent issue in people of various age groups and backgrounds. Nevertheless, these incidents of self-hitting are rarely reported and sought help for, primarily due to the taboo associated with them. As a result, there remains a considerable lack of education and awareness regarding why these behaviors exist and if they represent something more sinister requiring medical attention.
This article will explore self-harm in more detail, mainly focusing on whether actions of self-harm, hitting yourself in particular, could be a sign of a mental disorder.
What is Self-Harm?
Before discussing hitting yourself and its relation to psychiatric issues, it’s essential to understand what self-harm is and why it occurs. Self-harm or self-injury refers to an act of intentionally injuring your own body. Such actions often lead to tissue damage or leave injury marks around the affected area.
The following actions are categorized under self-harm:
– Cutting different body parts
– Repeatedly banging head
– Pulling hair
– Reopening wounds or picking at skin
– Burning or branding skin with hot objects
– Using a sharp object to pierce the skin
– Hitting your head against the wall or with any object (such as a hammer)
Most people who engage in self-mutilation act alone and usually attempt to cover their injury marks and hide their behaviors. Such people are generally not trying to commit suicide; however, their suicidal tendency is markedly high compared to others.
The Cause Behind Self-Harm
Different reasons account for why people choose to harm themselves. The commonest among them is a failure to cope with their feelings. Other reasons include:
– To punish themselves for a mistake
– To make themselves feel something/to get over the feelings of numbness and emptiness
– To indicate that they need help
– To block out upsetting memories from the past
– To feel like they are in control
– To release the overwhelming feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, anger, or other
Is Self-Harm a Sign of Mental Disorder?
Despite being a common clinical problem, self-harm is poorly understood and may lead to mixed feelings. Despite being one of the most common addictions, it is the most stereotyped due to a lack of understanding. Because of this gap, people engaging in self-inflicted injuries such as hitting themselves are often labeled as attention seekers, self-obsessed, or crazy.
Unfortunately, self-harm remains taboo and receives negative attitudes from society. Many believe that consciously hitting yourself, making yourself bleed, or burning yourself is against the core human values. Such a school of thought prevents people from reporting incidents, like hitting yourself against a wall or with a hammer and seeking help.
However, it is important to understand that hitting yourself, along with other examples of self-injury,sleeping disorder can be a sign of an underlying mental disorder. While it is not necessarily true in all cases, experts encourage seeking help from an appropriate medical healthcare professional to rule out the possibility of a psychiatric disease triggering it. Some common psychiatric illnesses that include self-harm include:
- Major Depressive Disorder
Major depressive disorder alone has been linked to self-harming behaviors in 42% of adolescents. This depressive episode can occur as a part of bipolar disorder and is likely to persist if appropriate treatment is not sought. Additionally, depression may also appear separately in a chronic form, forcing every one in eight victims to engage in a suicide gesture of self-injuring themselves without any real intention of dying.
- Dissociative Disorders
Dissociative disorders are characterized by being mentally and physically disengaged from reality. Most individuals suffering from this issue have experienced extreme emotional trauma in the past or an event for which they hold themselves responsible. To tackle the recurring pain associated with these incidents, they hit themselves or choose another way of self-harm as a way to punish them.
- Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder is closely connected with self-injury, with up to 75 percent of patients reportedly engaging in harming themselves frequently. For such people, self-harm is a way to regulate their mood and get rid of negative feelings.
- Eating Disorders
Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa also involve self-harm in up to 61 percent of the patients. The rationale behind this behavior is self-punishment, possibly for not being able to meet the societal norms in terms of physical beauty.
Seeking Help for Self-Harm
If you have been engaging in self-harming behaviors like hitting or burning yourself, it is imperative to seek help from a doctor, psychiatrist, or counselor. These professionals have been adequately trained to assist you in finding the cause of self-injury and work with you through it. Keep in mind that early intervention can maximize recovery while minimizing the risk of engaging in similar actions in the future.
If possible, find people who can support you without passing judgments or making you feel uncomfortable. Reaching out to such people and sharing your burden can help you pass through a crisis without hurting yourself.
If you suspect that a loved one is harming themselves, always be there for them. Ensure to adopt non-judgmental support and prepare yourself to listen to them, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Help these people understand that help is available, but pushing them to avail must be avoided. Give them time to understand what’s happening and support them in finding a treatment once they are ready.
If the matter is getting out of hand and you feel suicidal, call your local emergency service for rapid assistance.
Whether you have recently started hitting yourself or have been engaging in it for some time, help is always available to improve your health and minimize these behaviors. Talking to a loved one, a trusted friend, or a healthcare professional is the first step to finding relief and healing.
Remember that self-harm does not necessarily mean a cry for attention or an attempt to end life. For some people, it is merely a way to cope with overwhelming thoughts. Nevertheless, self-harm must be taken very seriously, and help should be sought as early as possible for complete recovery.