As someone who has suffered from self-harm, I know just how dark and disturbing the behavior can get. At the age of nine, I began to suffer from severe depression and anxiety. The act of cutting released for me a lot of my pent-up emotions and caused me to feel an instant of satisfying pain. I also managed to hide it very well. My parents did not find out about my self-harm tendencies until four and a half years later.
Self-harm is sometimes hard to catch because, unlike other addictions that cause physical symptoms over a long period of time, the only physical effect it leaves is the cut or resulting scar. All one has to do to then is cover it up. Because of the extent of the body and the variety of clothing available, a self-harmer can easily go years without anyone knowing.
Here are a few signs that will help you determine whether a loved one is engaging in this behavior.
1. Your loved one has become more withdrawn.
When I self harmed, I always made sure to do it inside my room with the door locked. This way no one could catch me in the act. My family did start to notice that I was more secluded and spent a lot more time in my room, but they assumed that I was doing homework or playing with my toys as I was only nine years old. The age of a person, however, does not matter.
If you notice that your loved one is spending more and more time in his or her room, take some time to talk with him or her to determine what he or she is going through.
2. Your loved one has suddenly started wearing different clothes.
When I was nine and first started self-harming, I wore a sweater every day for the rest of the year in school. My parents never noticed, so I continued to get away with it until I turned fourteen. At fourteen, my mother discovered what I had been doing. Ever since then, every time I started wearing sweaters spontaneously, she would ask me if I had engaged in self-harm. This way, I stopped being able to hide whether or not I had self harmed.
3. Your loved one is more depressed.
I thought very little of myself. This made me able to hurt my own body on purpose. Several times I felt that I deserved the cuts or burns I gave myself because I felt like I was worthless. If your loved one becomes severely depressed, talk to him or her about what is going on at that time. When approaching people who self-harm, be gentle and have full understanding. This is likely his or her deepest and darkest behavior. They’re likely very ashamed of this habit and do not want to discuss it with any one, but if you approach them with love and empathy, it could make them a little more comfortable opening up to you.
These are the three major warning signs of a loved one suffering from self-harm. Remember that these people feel very negatively about their own bodies that they are willing to inflict harm on themselves. They view their life as worthless and feel numb to the sensations of the world around them. The pain they cause to themselves allows them to feel, for a brief moment, some emotion that they believe they can handle. It is an instant, gratifying release from the world around them. So treat them with love and accuse them that what they’re doing is bad as this will only make them feel worse. Give them undying love and endless patience. This way, they may begin to lose the notion that they need to act on this urge because they’ll begin to feel that their life has worth.