Dealing with Self Harm as an Adult

Most people associate self-harm with troubled teens and young people who are dealing with depression. Although teens often represent the majority of people who have self-harm issues, there are plenty of adults who are also struggling with the problem. Self-harm is a devastating mental health issue that can affect any age, gender and people from all walks of life.


People who have issues with self-harm may begin in their teens and find it difficult to change their behavior. Or they may have changed their habits for a while but fell back into self-harm because they went through a stressful event as an adult. Whatever the cause of self-harm, it is important for adults to seek professional help to cope with their issues.

It may be even more challenging for adults to get help for their self-harm issues because they feel worried about the stigma surrounding mental illness and how it will affect them. They may feel afraid that their friends, family members or coworkers will find out about their behavior and judge them. It is important for adults to overcome their fears about being judged and get the help that they need so that they avoid the dangers of continuing self-harm.

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Understanding Self-Injury

Whether you are an adult of teen, there are certain signs and symptoms of self-harm that should be treated as problematic behavior. Some common types of self-harm include things like cutting parts of the body with sharp objects or razors such as on the arm, leg, stomach or any spot that can be easily hidden. Someone who engages in self-injury may always have a sharp object on hand or in a secret spot in their house so that they can cut themselves when they are experiencing stress.

Self-harm isn’t just limited to cutting however, as many people explore different types of self-injury as a coping mechanism. They might burn themselves with matches, cigarettes or lighters, cause bruises by hitting themselves with heavy objects or hit their head against the wall. An individual may engage in more than one self-harm behavior at a time or focus on one depending on what they feel releases some of their stress and negative feelings.

It is helpful to try to understand why self-harm occurs and what makes the individual turn to it over and over again when they are feeling bad. People typically engage in self-harm because it can distract their mind, shut down their emotions and help them temporarily escape from their depression, anxiety or stress that is negatively affecting them. Focusing on physical pain and the process of a wound healing can take their mind off of psychic pain for a period of time.

Some adults may also engage in self-injury because they are looking for a sense of control over their body or their feelings. If their life feels out of control then they feel that they can harm themselves to put things into perspective. They may also use self-injury as a way to communicate their feelings of depression or distress to the outside world and keep loved ones concerned and connected.

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Treatment and Recovery from Self-Harm

For adults struggling with self-harm, it is very important to reach out and get help for what you are going through. Self-harm can be dangerous in many cases especially when a person cutting regularly. They may use too much force or cut in an area where they are putting their life in danger.

Treating self-harm means addressing both the behavior itself and the underlying mental health issues that may be causing those habits. People who engage in self-harm often have issues with depression, anxiety, personality disorders like borderline, bipolar disorder and a number of other possible problems. The person may be involved in self-harm because they have remained undiagnosed and never received treatment for their mental illness.

Recovering from a mental illness through treatment or regular therapy can help a patient work through the feelings that cause them to harm themselves. During treatment they can start to learn how to develop more effective coping mechanisms so that they learn to avoid self-harming habits. Different coping mechanisms like meditation, talking to a friend, writing in a journal and other positive habits can start to take the place of cutting and other self-harm whenever the person feels stressed out, sad or anxious.

Working with a therapist can help a person who self-harms to find different ways to release their emotions, distract their mind or reduce stress. Replacing negative and harmful habits with more positive ones can lead to better mental health and stop the cycle of self-injury and depression.

Self-injury may seem harmless to the sufferer, but it can cause physical and mental health problems. If you or someone you love has a problem with self-harm then seek professional help as soon as possible to prevent any dangerous situations.