While addictions to drugs and alcohol are bound to come to light after a certain amount of time, there is one addiction that can remain hidden for a lot longer.
Self harm, or cutting, burning, punching or otherwise hurting yourself is pretty much like an addiction, but it’s one that often has fewer obvious consequences than drug or alcohol addictions and can be harder to detect.
It can be easier to hide simply by wearing long sleeves and clothing that covers you – and the consequences only tend to show up when trips to the hospital are required.
Just like other addictions, self harm is usually a form of mood regulation when you lack other coping skills. It can be a form of dealing with unbearable emotions or thoughts caused by a traumatic past. It can be an outlet for expressing pain in a physical way when you just can not deal with it in an emotional way.
Like any other addiction, the emotions when cutting can follow the cycle of a high during the action and the guilt and remorse when it’s over. It can also be progressive in nature, starting out from pinching or punching and leading to serious cuts and burns that require stitching and treatment.
I have every sympathy with self harmers as I used to be one too.
While infections, nerve damage and other serious blood-related illnesses can result from cutting, some people may not see it as quite as serious as say drug or alcohol use.
But the emotional misery that can be caused by self harming is just as serious as the hollowness and despair caused by other addictions and it can be a very lonely world to live in. And it can be even more painful when loved ones do discover it and find it hard to understand.
The good news is that you can recover from self harm with the right support and help.
Most effective are therapies that teach you distress tolerance, emotional regulation and interrupting old patterns with more healthy coping strategies. And while you find a better way to deal with your emotions, finding a new sense of self worth and self esteem will help you to break free of the self harm cycle.
These days my sense of self worth is so solid that I forget about the scars all over my arms. I don’t wear long sleeves anymore, so occasionally a particularly curious soul in the supermarket will comment or ask about the scars. These days I like to wink and tell them I used to live with an untamed tiger. The people who believe it always amuse me. But then, in a sense it is true – that untamed tiger was me.
Beth Burgess is the founder of Sort My Life Solutions http://www.smyls.co.uk She is a Recovery coach, specialising in drug and alcohol addictions and recovery from illnesses and mental health disorders. Having recovered from a multitude of problems herself, including alcoholism, self harm, Borderline Personality Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder, she believes there is a solution to everything. Her book, ‘What Is Self Esteem? How to Build your Self Esteem and Feel Happy Now’ is available on Kindle http://www.amazon.com/What-Esteem-Build-Happy-ebook/dp/B007HNL5NO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1333361086&sr=8-1