Self Harm: A Serious Mental Health Issue

self harm cutSelf harm is a serious mental health issue. People who suffer from mental health issues sometimes use various forms of self-harm to deal with difficult emotions. I have bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, and I have engaged in various forms of self harm. Back in 1998, when I was hospitalized for bipolar depression, I used a plastic fork to cut my arm. In 2011, I cut my arm again and made a sore on my bicep. I kept picking at the sore so it wouldn’t heal, and after it scabbed over, I would rip the scab off. After the tremendous pain passed, there was an endorphin release that made me feel really good. Pulling that scab off provided an emotional release.

self harm on handI have also engaged in other forms of self harm. I have a habit of bending my fingers back to stretch the skin on my palms. You can see how callused that skin is. When I pull my fingers back and then let go, it hurts really bad. But after that pain comes the endorphin release, which feels really good. I’ve been doing this for years, but it just occurred to me recently that it is a form of self harm. I have tried to give up doing this to my hand, but when I don’t do it, I miss the pain as well as the endorphin release.

I have also engaged in other forms of self harm. I have a long-standing sugar addiction, and when I’m not doing well, I will sometimes binge on sugary crap. The sugar tastes good, and at least temporarily, it boosts my mood and helps me feel better for a while. Of course, excess sugar consumption has some serious downsides, and everyone knows that consuming too much sugar is not a healthy thing to do.

I live in Anchorage, Alaska, and I made a video on the issue of self harm while walking the Campbell Creek Trail near Taku Lake, and I hope that sharing my experiences with it will help you and those you love understand this behavior and find healthier ways to deal with difficult emotions. I do have one suggestion, and that is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or DBT. It is the treatment of choice for borderline personality disorder, and mindfulness helps as well. If you can mentally step back from the emotions and look at things more objectively, then you might be able to use that mental space you have created to find a better, healthier way to deal with the emotions.