WARNING: this post contains in-depth language and information about self-harm. If you are in acute crisis looking for help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or dial 911"
Self-harm, also called self-mutilation or nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI), is when someone deliberately harms their own body. Although acts of self-mutilation are intentional, many people who engage in self-injury do not have suicidal intent. Hurting yourself—or thinking about hurting yourself—is ultimately a sign of emotional pain. These difficult emotions can grow even more intense if a person uses self-injury as a coping mechanism. Whether you're engaging in NSSI or think that a loved one might be injuring themselves, help is available. Although intentional self-harm can become addictive, with the proper treatment, those who self-injure can recover from their behaviors and lead fulfilling and healthy lives.
Although the reasons for self-harm behaviors vary from person to person, many people self-harm to cope with negative feelings, painful memories, or difficult situations. In general, self-mutilation occurs when an individual experiences emotional pain that they cannot psychologically cope with and for which they do not have alternative, healthy coping mechanisms.
Some people engage in acts of self-harm as a way to:
After deliberate self-harm, people might experience a short-term sense of relief. However, self-mutilation is not the solution to mental health issues, and it often coincides with physical health risks. Self-mutilation can also bring up difficult emotions, and self-harming can make them worse.
If you or someone you love is engaging in self-injury, seek professional help immediately. The following warning signs may indicate that someone you know is engaging in self-harm:
If you or a loved one is engaging in self-injury behaviors, early intervention is essential. Without treatment, self-mutilation can have serious consequences such as infections, scars, and emergency hospital stays. Over time, the cycle of self-harm can be habit-forming, and individuals who fail to learn healthy coping mechanisms face a higher risk of substance misuse, suicide attempts, and other mental health challenges. In general, treatment for self-mutilation typically includes partial inpatient therapy or intensive outpatient therapy. When self-harm behaviors disrupt daily life or threaten one's health, a specialized psychotherapy program with experienced clinicians is recommended.
Some healthy ways to process your emotions and avoid self-harm include:
At Charlie Health, our intensive outpatient programs help adolescents, young adults, and their families navigate their mental health challenges in a safe, supportive environment. Our comprehensive, virtual treatment programs consist of group therapy, individual therapy, family therapy, and guided psychiatric support so you can access high-quality treatment from the comfort of your own home.
Whether you're living with depression or struggling with NSSI, our compassionate mental health professionals are here to support you every step of the way. Taking the first step can feel overwhelming, but finding the right therapist will make your life so much brighter.