Self-harm: 6 myths about selfharma


What makes people of all ages, especially adolescents, hurt themselves? Such a non-trivial dialogue with their bodies is chosen by those who do not know how to relieve mental stress in a safe way, to cope with their emotions in difficult life situations.

“Selfharm has always been a way out for me, since I was seven, I guess. Then I did not know what it was called, but I punished myself. For the extra food, for the tears. I was a very chubby kid, so I could go hungry for weeks because I allowed myself to eat chocolate. Then the problems became more and more, and the punishments – more and more severe. I deprived myself of sleep, food, beat myself, cut … I told everyone about my problem. I asked for help, but they made me look like an idiot. “ (Valya, 17 years old)

“I’ve been doing selfharming for almost eleven years. I can’t remember how it all started. At an early age, I mostly punished myself for not meeting parental expectations, but I had many reasons for self-harm. Among them – a drinking family member, a feeling of injustice and regret that I will never be able to help everyone … Now it is hard for me to imagine myself without blades in my phone case and several dozen scars all over my body, not to mention a hundred scars … Do not romanticize self-harm. It’s not beautiful at all … “ (Matvey, 15 years old)

These are fragments of confessions that were published by on your website a student of the European gymnasium Varvara Bogantseva. In creating a resource that honestly and clearly talks about selfharma, she had a personal interest: “I have friends and acquaintances who are prone to self-harm, and I know how unpleasant it is to feel helpless and not understand what help I can provide them … I hope the project will be useful to other people with a similar problem. ” Varvara has collected on her website several well-established opinions about self-destructive behavior. We asked Nastasya Krysko, a teenage psychologist, to comment on these myths.

1. Selfharm is always a suicide attempt

No not always. A person may self-harm for another purpose: to cope with difficult experiences for him or her, traumatic situations such as violence or bullying, failures in a significant area, as well as the inability to control their life. Or wanting to punish yourself for something.

American psychologist Thomas Joyner, a recognized expert in the field of suicidal behavior, drew attention: the longer a person practices self-harm, the lower his fear of death, that is, there is a kind of “addiction” or, scientifically, “desensitization” to pain. Among the events that lead to a decrease in the fear of death, psychological trauma of childhood and serious illnesses that cause suffering are also distinguished. It is always important to clarify with the person himself (when he agreed to speak on this topic) his motives and intentions.

2. Selfharm is when the veins are cut

There are many ways to self-harm. Some people use different options, and some people use the same method all the time. The basis of any self-harm is INTENTIONAL self-harm for a specific purpose (self-regulation, distraction, punishment, and so on). In addition to cuts in different parts of the body, there are also such methods of self-harm as:

  • overeating and malnutrition
  • biting yourself
  • burns,
  • sticking objects into oneself,
  • hitting the walls
  • deliberate overdose,
  • excessive physical activity in order to harm oneself,
  • pulling out hair,
  • participation in fights in which injuries will certainly be inflicted.

Some researchers highlight the so-called emotional self-harm: it may consist in deliberately angering someone, provoking someone to be yelled at in response. Another way is to deliberately enter into relationships you don’t want to be in, to be with those you don’t want to be with, to have sex when you don’t want to, to prevent yourself from spending time with those you love, punishing yourself.

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