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The truth about self-harm

February 28, 2020

Self-harm can be a confusing and difficult topic for a lot of people. However, it's a topic that must be discussed to increase awareness. The truth is, most individuals don't understand the self-harm cycle or know how to identify signs. The first step in decreasing self-harming behavior is understanding what causes it and how others can help. 

What is self-harm? 

Self-harm can describe any behavior in which someone causes harm to themselves. Typically, individuals use this as a way to cope with distressing thoughts. It most frequently takes the form of cutting, burning or even non-lethal overdoses. However, it can be any behavior that causes injury. While self-harm might give temporary relief from the emotional pain, it's important to understand that this relief is only short-lived. Soon after self-harming, many individuals feel guilt or shame, which can ultimately continue the cycle. 

Why do people self-harm? 

There are a number of triggers for self-harm, including low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, bullying and drug or alcohol abuse. When a few of these issues come together they can quickly feel overwhelming and become too much for one person to deal with.

How common is it?

In reality, 10% of young people self-harm. This also means that at least two young people in every secondary classroom have self-harmed at some point in their life. People who have experience of a mental health disorder are more at risk than others. But, the bottom line is that self-harm can affect anyone, which is why it's always important to check in on close friends and family.  

What are the signs? 

Various behaviors can be associated with self-harming behavior, including withdrawal or isolation, changes in mood, abusing drugs or alcohol, lack of energy, covering up all the time, and unexplained bruises or cuts. It's also critical to understand that these signs do not always mean someone is self-harming, and there may actually be no warning signs at all. If you suspect someone might be self-harming, it's important to ask them openly and honestly. Always remember to be non-judgmental and show kindness when discussing this topic. If you do decide to talk to someone about self-harm, don't act shocked, overwhelmed or upset with them. Be positive, supportive and let them know that things will get better.

What are some common misconceptions? 

Self-harm isn’t a suicide attempt or a cry for attention. However, it can be a way for some people to cope with overwhelming thoughts or feelings. Self-harm should be taken seriously in any case.

Where can people find help?

Talking to someone is often the first step to recovery. Individuals shouldn't be afraid to ask for help whenever and however they need to. Talking about your feelings isn’t a sign of weakness. In fact, it can actually show strength and courage. Recovery is possible, and at Clearwater Counseling, PC, we work with our clients to help them overcome the cycle. We are here to listen, help and support. To schedule a time to talk with one of our compassionate and experienced therapists, call (308) 210-8487, or shoot us an email at

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