A number of Self-Injury dynamics are commonly misunderstood. The items below clarify common misunderstandings.
Self-Injury and Attention-Seeking
Self-Injury is an attempt to cope with overwhelming anxiety and other intense emotions. It is not about seeking attention.
However, since feelings are internal and self-injury is an external behavior, self-injury can also be seen as an acting-out of internal issues. The pain caused to the body portrays the internal pain.
At Bill Jacobs LPCC, we have long understood that people tend unconsciously to show their feelings through their actions.
Self-Injury and Sexual Abuse
In the past many people though that self-injury was a sure sign of sexual abuse. This believe has been proven false. There are people who have been sexually abused who do not self-injure. And there are people who self-Injure who have not been sexually abused.
That said, if sexual abuse creates extreme emotions in victims and self-injury is a way that some people cope with extreme emotions, then it should not surprise us that some people who have been sexually abused might self-injure.
Self-Injury and Borderline Personality Disorder
While self-injury is one of the diagnostic criteria for BPD, not all people who self-injure could be diagnosed with BPD.
Self-Injury and Suicide
Of all self-injury dynamics, this is, our our view, the most important to understand.
Many people assume that when someone is self-injuring they are attempting suicide. That assumption is usually incorrect.
Self-injury is an attempt to cope with life's difficulties. Suicide is a way to stop coping.
Sometimes, however, the same stressors that prompt self-injury may be so overwhelming that suicidal thinking may also be present.
It is important to differentiate between wanting to die and being frustrated and overwhelmed. Sometimes when a person says, "I wish I were dead, they really mean they wish their problems could be resolved.
Those who want to die are suicidal and need immediate care. Those who are overwhelmed need help coping with their emotions and situations.
We find most people we deal with who self-injure to be intelligent, sensitive, caring people who need to be heard and taught other more healthy forms of coping.