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Feeling It Out and Coping: Self-Harm and Self-Care

What is Self-Harm?

Self-harm is defined as the “deliberate and voluntary physical self-injury that is not life threatening and is without any conscious suicidal intent” (Kilburn pg.1). While, there are various terms that can be used interchangeably such as “self-mutilation or self-injury,” (Kilburn) when focusing on this intent. They all refer to the same topic. Self-harm is often used as a coping skill to deal with clinical mental disorders such anorexia nervosa, depression, borderline personality disorder and more.

This coping skill delivers relief with feelings that can be overwhelming. Self-harm is a method to alleviate feelings that have manifested from the mental illness. Additionally, self-harmers are more likely to take part in considering suicide than those that have not self-harmed. Both males and females take part in this activity, although “given different gender roles and socialization patterns” (Kilburn pg. 2) we can acknowledge that males and females self-harm for different reasons.

How do they feel?

Females and males may have varied emotions that they are seeking relief from by self-harming. “More boys reported self-harming to communicate with others or out of boredom, whereas a higher percentage of girls reported despair as a motivating factor, endorsing factors such as self-hatred, self-punishment, depression, loneliness, and denationalization” (Kilburn pg. 4)

Studies have shown that individuals that use this coping skill are dealing with anger within themselves, and may show signs of an antisocial behavior. (Kilburn pg.3) The emotions that these individuals are dealing with in research have shown that they feel self-conscious and negative towards themselves. Further emotions were reported that those individuals felt alone and bored (Kilburn pg.4).  As self-harm is becoming more prevalent in young adults, it is important to find healthy coping methods to use instead.

Physical Methods

  • Screaming
  • Exercising (Jumping Jacks, Running, etc.)
  • Squeezing ice
  • Drawing on body parts with red ink or where they want to injure
    • Putting stickers on where they want to injure
  • Playing loud music and have a dance party
  • Cut or rip apart a piece of paper or cloth
  • Use a pillow and use it against the wall
  • Punch a punching bag
  • Cleaning (bathroom, kitchen, etc.)
  • Stomp around in heavy shoes, or jump around in them
  • Find a favorite pet and rub them
  • Take a cold bath
  • Watch a favorite movie or TV show

Intrapersonal Methods

  • Focus on breathing exercises or meditation
  • Listen to soothing music
  • Writing out feelings
    • Keeping a journal
    • Writing on oneself
    • Asking questions about what they hope to get out of self-harm
  • Make a list about the positive aspects about themselves
  • Reach out to a friend or family member to talk
  • Hobbies (playing an instrument, baking, etc.)
  • List the many uses of a specific object
  • Take photos
  • List goals to get involved in the community
  • Feel it out, and the emotions that they are having

 

Opening Up Communication

Opening a Dialogue; Self-Harm Among Loved Ones

References

Kilburn, E., & Whitlock, J. (2009). Distraction Techniques and Alternative Coping Strategies.

Retrieved June 2, 2017, from

http://www.selfinjury.bctr.cornell.edu/perch/resources/distraction-techniques-pm-2.pdf

Laye-Gindhu, A., & Schonert-Reichi, K. A. (2005). Nonsuicidal Self-Harm Among Community

Adolescents: Understanding the “Whats” and “Whys” of Self-Harm. Journal of Youth

        and Adolescence, 34(5), 447-457. doi: 10.1007/s10964-005-7262-z

17 Comments

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  1. The emotions behind self-harm are well-researched and presented in an organized matter. The list of things to do other than self-harm are also full of good ideas, including ideas that I have seen suggested many times in clinical settings.

    However, there were a lot of grammar issues that stuck out at me that I would like to run through. These grammatical mistakes didn’t affect the meaning of the content, and the article is wonderful, but they were distracting to me.

    The first thing I noticed was the sentence “While, there are various terms that can be used interchangeably such as “self-mutilation or self-injury,” (Kilburn) when focusing on this intent.” This is a fragment and you may want to combine it with the next sentence.

    “Although self-harmers are more likely to take part in considering suicide than those that have not self-harmed.” This sentence is true but it belongs in the first paragraph, which is the paragraph that discussed the relationship or lack thereof between self-harm and suicide, rather than in the paragraph about male vs. female self-harm habits. It also needs a comma after “Although” or else it is a fragment.

    “Further emotions were reported that those individuals felt alone and bored (Kilburn pg.4).” If you want to start the sentence with ‘further emotions reported,’ I think a better way to word this would be: “Further emotions reported included loneliness and boredom” Or “Further emotions were reported, including loneliness and boredom.” Loneliness and boredom are referring to further emotions and therefore they should be nouns in order to match. Or you could say “Individuals also reported feeling alone and bored.”

    The lists you provided also included some inconsistencies in grammar.

    o Use a pillow and use it against the wall
    How do they use the pillow against the wall?
    o Cleaning (literally anything bathroom, kitchen, bedroom)
    Clean (the rest of the list uses verbs, so this bullet should as well)
    o Find a favorite fluffy animal and give some of those rubs
    Give it some rubs/pet or rub it (the pronoun ‘those’ doesn’t match the antecedent)
    o Watch their favorite movie or TV shows
    “Watch a” (the rest of the list uses ‘a’ and this bullet should as well)

    Other than these small issues, the article was well-written, very well-researched, and took an empathetic and unbiased approach toward a very difficult subject. I would recommend this article to anyone struggling with self-harm.

  2. Although there may be a numerous amount of grammatical errors, I think the content itself is extremely helpful. I did not know a lot about self harm or why people would choose to commit such an act. When I was in High School, I had a friend who went through depression and would cut herself. I attempted to help her with words of encouragement or ask her questions about why she did such things, but I never fully understood because I could not fully comprehend what she was feeling.

    I find it interesting that it is more likely in girls than boys. Boys are usually more careless and I hate to say it, but simple minded as well. Girls tend to think more and think things through and face more standards of a higher caliber than most boys. The fact that it is more likely in girls than boys could not be a matter intelligence at all, but that is my take on the fact of the matter.

    Lastly, I think that this article is helpful in not only offering a problem, but a solution as well. It is important to inform people about problems in every way they can to spread awareness and coping methods.

    • I found it interesting as well that boys and girls self harm for different reasons.
      I think it has more to do with the socio cultural upbringing of gender roles rather than the biological makeup of their minds.

      What I’ve learned so far in my psych courses, females are more likely to express their problems inwards when up set, while males are more likely to express it outward.

      In relation to this article, I was thinking this applied because it stated girls do it when, “self-hatred, self-punishment, depression, loneliness, and denationalization” which are all classing inward expressions of depression and pain. Males on the other hand often lash out with violence, yelling or disobedience. I think the “out of boredom” part can be due to the difficult socialization that implies that men shouldn’t talk about their feelings/problems. So they chalk it up to “communicating with others,” as the article stated.

      I remember growing up, and it was always the boys who started those games like chicken, bloody knuckles, bottle cap war, pennies, and that eraser game. So this was what came to mind when it mentioned boys use boredom as a way to communicate because it does seem to bring people together, at least in my experience. Maybe this is an isolated experience, how were others school lives like? Did games like this exist else where?

  3. While this article could have used another pair of eyes when it comes to editing, it provided a lot of valid information. I found it very interesting how there was a difference in motivation between males and females.

    Personally, I used to self-harm, so I can definitely identify with the emotions described for people who practiced self harm. It is a last resort, but it is a coping mechanism when the world, or even your own mind, feels like it is about to destroy you.

    One thing I am curious about it why advice for people who care for self-harmers was not included? When I started seeing a therapist, my parents were given lots of instruction on warning signs of a self harmer and how to be more proactive. Self harm can become so much more than a coping mechanism; it can become an addiction, and even if someone wants to stop, it can seem impossible. So providing information for friends and family of people who self harm would be beneficial.

    • Hey Julianna,

      Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience with the emotions felt while going through this.

      I wanted to keep this article focused on methods that would be useful for an individual, although I think that would be a wonderful topic for another article. Warning signs, and how to open up dialogue for talking about this would be a great focus and to help educate others!

  4. Throughout the beginning of the article, I feared that the tone of the topic was a little too self-harm positive. However, by the end, the point was made explicitly clear, and the message was well delivered. I like how the article got straight to the point and didn’t bother with a meaningless introduction, as this topic is rather sensitive. I appreciated all of the self-care techniques provided, and as someone who has self-harmed, I can agree that most helped me personally. I’m really glad this was written for the sole purpose of saving lives. I like the use of citations, as it made the source information’s location very obvious. I believe this was a well-written article, that has the potential to help many people who struggle with this affliction.

  5. This article is very informative and well researched. It gives the reader basic knowledge about what self-harm is and what to do when one is inflicting this kind of physical pain on themselves.

    I have had multiple friends that have gone through depressing stages of their lives. I have talked them through such times in their lives but for one friend in particular it became so severe that his family enrolled him in a program to help him. I enjoyed the part of your article that gives self-harmers options of how to release that energy in a safer way. That is very helpful to people experiencing this!

    I wanted to touch on the difference in reasoning for males and females. Men and women cope differently and I think a beneficial addition to this article would be to elaborate a bit more into how they cope differently. Just like in male vs. female suicide studies, there are patterns of how each gender self-harms. I also think a section about warning signs would be a great addition.

    Some grammatical errors that I noticed include:
    In your second sentence, first section: “While, there are various terms that can be used interchangeably such as “self-mutilation or self-injury,” (Kilburn) when focusing on this intent. They all refer to the same topic.”
    There does not need to be a comma after the “While.” Also, your first sentence is a fragment, I think it would help make the sentences flow more if you combined these two sentences.

    Second sentence, second section: “More boys reported self-harming to communicate with others or out of boredom, whereas a higher percentage of girls reported despair as a motivating factor, endorsing factors such as self-hatred, self-punishment, depression, loneliness, and denationalization” (Kilburn pg. 4)
    Make sure to add a period to the end your sentence here.

    Self-harm is a method to alleviate feelings that have manifested from the mental illness. Although self-harmers are more likely to take part in considering suicide than those that have not self-harmed.

    These sentences are a little mixed up to me and I think it would be better to combine them! You may even want to put the second sentence first and combine them that way.

    Other than these few things your article was great! I feel more informed about something that is becoming more and more common.

  6. I’m so happy and excited to see in this article about listing things to do instead of self harm. I feel so many articles exist to report on an issue, which is great don’t get me wrong, but often neglect to provide a solution to the info the writer just brought awareness towards. Love love love this!!

    I also think that something that’s been helping, but also been controversial in schools are these fidget toys that are coming out. I completely understand the school worrying about them being a distraction, however, as mentioned in the article, self harm has been on the rise and if you’re a self harmer, maybe a skin picker like myself, having something to do with your fingers is so relaxing! Maybe with more research, we can show to schools that these aren’t just toys but are actually therapeutic devices.

  7. I love your article as it gives the explanation on what self harm is and also how to deal with it.
    Though I think a good addition to the physical methods would be to purchase a fidget cube/spinner or any kind of stress toy. Despite them becoming popular among teenagers simply because they’re the new “trend” they were originally meant to help people who are stressed and therefore should be considered a use in times of stress such as feeling the need to self harm.
    A second addition to this would be to clench and unclench your fists, this tenses and untenses the muscles without the need to exercise, this will tire out the muscles which originally may be shaken up and such. This is an effective method in situations where an individual may not easily be able to remove themselves from a situation for example at a meal in a restaurant or in class.
    I personally use this method when I am unable to use my fidget cube, and it not only distracts me but it makes me feel that I’m doing something about the way I’m feeling, rather than sitting and feeling helpless in a situation where I cannot exercise or use ice.

  8. A well-researched, poignant and informative article about self-harm.

    In fact, the author has researched various legitimate resources and has made effective use of these by retrieving the most essential information, which by today’s standards is a must. Additionally, by laying out an actual problem that is much too stigmatized in our contemporary world, the author makes their readers reflect on what they actually know about self-harm, which in many cases is a byproduct of media stigmatism. Essential to both self-harmers and their environment, this article not only describes the psychological nature of self-harming but the critical steps to put an end to it as well.

    Although rather theoretical, a result of the absence of self-harm testimonials, say personal experiences, this article remains very much meaningful

  9. This is a very necessary article. I am really glad that this includes not only an explanation of what self-harm is and what it means about someone, but also that it has other ways to cope with negative emotions in a more positive way while still satisfying the urges. An issue that I do have with how this article is written is that in the very beginning, with the explanation of self-harm and why people do it, the author used a tone that seemed a little too light on the subject and I was kind of afraid that the way things were phrased could be taken as almost encouraging towards self-harm and seeing it as a normal and okay way to handle negative emotions. Possibly a little more negative wording in the beginning without killing the factual aspect of the article would have been a little helpful. It was well-researched and an easy-read so over all, I really enjoyed this article and found it very useful.

  10. This article has a good explanation of what self-harm can come from and how it can develop in abundance from mental illness and repressed feelings. This was documented in a more research/fact format which is easy to read in presentation to viewers looking for information. I think it’s good to show alternative methods into dealing with how to cope with it by reverting to healthy alternatives. It would have been interesting to include a personal insight interview or infographics. I think it just needed a bit empathetic depth in a way that could connect to more viewers on a more personal level. Examples of what signs from the outside people can’t see and how others can be involved to help those going through this would help with resonance within the article. This topic hits in close relation with my own personal battle with self-destruction I had dealt with from adolescence to adulthood. I know many others going through this as well in various way and I’m always looking for methods to help cope with the developed emotional pain so that was great information for me to learn. Overall, I think this article just needed an empathetic level for expression but the research value was well read. The article felt very straight to the point and I like the included facts for coping methods which could help anyone going though these various situations.

  11. I really like this article. I’ve dealt with depression and self harm and I’m still struggling with it. These alternative methods will help me a lot as I continue to try to get better. I am slowly getting better and these alternative methods will help me and I’m thankful that you listed them. I will definitely try some of them out.

  12. Really great article! As someone who’s struggled with self harm for many years, this is a great collective list of alternative coping skills. A lot of these are super simple but can work wonders when you feel otherwise hopeless. So glad someone put them all in one place!

  13. Very important topic, thank you for sharing.

    You might want to revise the intro, “While, there are various terms that can be used interchangeably such as “self-mutilation or self-injury,” (Kilburn) when focusing on this intent. They all refer to the same topic.” It’s grammatically incorrect and confusing. Here’s the correction:

    While there are various terms that can be used interchangeably, such as “self-mutilation or self-injury,” (Kilburn) when focusing on this intent, they all refer to the same topic.

    I wish I had seen this earlier, as I still have red scars on my arms from self-harm. However interesting, this article doesn’t address the fact that while depressed or in crisis from a mental disease, victims can’t physically bring themselves to be proactive or even positive about what they do. From personal experience, I couldn’t do good things like exercising, dancing, or even reaching out. These major things take a more relaxed state of mind, which in a crisis is impossible. The only thing I could think about was how much I wanted to cut myself to transform all that despair inside my head into physical pain I could feel in my skin, and not in my head (which honestly is worse).

    While tips like “writing on your skin” and “holding ice” are great and the most productive towards avoiding self-harm, I’d say maybe address the other ones and see if there are any other ways that a person in deep crisis could feel a little bit better but without straining themselves.

  14. I feel like this article was needed in terms of really defining self harm and its methods. I did like that there was a list included for physical alternatives to how to prevent further self harm because as someone who does also deal with depression, its easier to find articles that can help change your mindset and deal with that part of it but I think when it comes down to being in the heat of the moment with all of the rushing self-judging and doubting and negative thoughts, its not easy to just be able to journal or think in a different perspective and sometimes punching things or drawing where you some folks will usually self-harm can kind of help to alleviate the need to hurt yourself.
    Some things that need work is that I think the article does alot more of rephrasing of an article that they read instead of inputting more original thought. I think what could have helped was getting more personal perspective not necessarily from the author herself but just any form of testimony on how people get to the point of wanting to self harm and continue to do so. Also, elaborate more on the study possibly on the differences between male self harmers and female self harmers. Another thing that needs work is the grammar and the punctuation. This article definitely needs to be proofread more as the mistakes can be pretty distracting and taking away from the issues that are being addressed.

  15. This article was honestly a bit shorter than I expected. I thought there would be more as the the definition of self harm, as well as maybe describing the types of self harm people do so that others know what to look for. It isn’t always cutting, many people will scratch, burn or hit themselves as well, and any other number of methods. Self harm is a very complex thing, and I think this article is a good starting point for a discussion on self harm, but I think maybe it should be a series discussing methods of self harm, and other behaviors to look for in order to figure out who may need help for the mental health disorders they have.
    I do think that the list of alternative methods, both physical and intrapersonal, was a good addition to the article. Providing another means of releasing the emotions is very helpful. I also wasn’t aware of some of the gendered differences as to the reasoning for self harm. I was a bit shocked to see that boys often do because they’re bored, as I wouldn’t imagine that would be most people’s reasoning.

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