What is Non-suicidal self-injury?
Non–suicidal self–injury (NSSI) is defined as deliberately injuring oneself without suicidal intent. The most common form of NSSI is self-cutting, but other forms include burning, scratching, hitting, intentionally preventing wounds from healing, and other similar behaviors. It indicates the person is in deep emotional pain and intense stress.
The individual has, on five or more days, engaged in intentional self-inflicted damage to the surface of his or her body, likely to induce bleeding or bruising or pain (e.g., cutting, burning, stabbing, hitting, excessive rubbing), performed with the expectation that the injury will lead to only minor or moderate physical harm. The absence of suicidal intent is either reported by the patient or can be inferred. (In part from DSM 5)
Why do they self-mutilate?
- All behaviors are purposeful; they mutilate to gain relief
- It integrates them back to their bodies and calms them down
- Relief from Dissociative Conditions:
1) A separation from oneself
2) A feeling of being outside of oneself and observing what is happening
3) A numbing to oneself
- They tend to have an inability to self-sooth, self-regulate, and cope with life
- Relief from extreme anxiety and depression, and often panic attacks
- A way of coping with problems
- It distracts from the pain of their life
What are the causes?
- Prolonged childhood trauma and/or neglect
- Physical, sexual, verbal and emotional abuse
- Minimum of healthy attachment and bonding as a child
- A repeated victim of bullying
This is NOT a way of getting attention, or an attention-seeking behavior. It is done in secret, behind closed doors and covered up with clothing so it will not be found out.
If you, or someone you know or love, is self-harming, it should not be ignored or made light of. With skilled professional help they can stop the destructive behavior.
Dr. Sherry Baker