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Informations about Self-harming

Self-harm, also called self-injury, self-mutilation, or simply cutting, is defined as any intentional injury to one's own body.
Self-harm covers a wide range of behaviors including cutting, burning (or "branding" with hot objects), scratching, banging or hitting body parts, Hair-pulling (trichotillomania), needle sticking, picking at skin or re-opening wounds (dermatillomania), eye pressing, finger or arm biting, bone-breaking, ingestion of toxic substances or objects.
Usually, self-harming leaves marks or causes tissue damage. Most who engage in self-harming act attempt to hide their behaviour.

Who Is More Likely to Engage in Self-harming?
Self-harm is most common in adolescence and young adulthood, usually first appearing between the ages of 12 and 24. Self-harm in childhood is relatively rare but the rate has been increasing since the 1980s. However, self-harm behaviour can occur at any age.

What Leads to Self-harming?
Self-harming usually occurs when people face what seem like overwhelming or distressing feelings. Self-harming is used as a coping mechanism which provides temporary relief of intense feelings such as anxiety, depression, stress, emotional numbness or a sense of failure or self-loathing and other mental traits including low self-esteem or perfectionism. It can also be an act of rebellion and/or rejection of parents' values and a way of individualizing oneself. Sufferers may feel that self-harming is a way of:
• Expressing feelings that can’t be put into words or releasing the pain and tension they feel inside
• Helping feel in control, relieving guilt, or punishing themselves
• Distracting from overwhelming emotions or difficult life circumstances
• Making feel alive, or simply feel something, instead of feeling numb

Warning Signs of Self-harming
Signs that an individual may be engaging in self-harming include:
• Unexplained wounds or scars from cuts, bruises, or burns, usually on the wrists, arms, thighs, or chest
• Blood stains on clothing, towels, or bedding; blood-soaked tissues
• Sharp objects or cutting instruments, such as razors, knives, needles, glass shards, or bottle caps, in the person’s belongings
• Frequent “accidents.” Someone who self-harms may claim to be clumsy or have many mishaps, in order to explain away injuries
• Covering up. A person who self-injures may insist on wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather
• Needing to be alone for long periods of time, especially in the bedroom or bathroom
• Isolation and irritability
• Low self-esteem
• Difficulty handling feelings
• Relationship problems
• Poor functioning at work, school, or home

Getting help for self-harming

The first step to get help for cutting or self-harming is to confide in another person. Shame and fear can make it very difficult to come forward and ask for help. It is difficult to talk about the very thing they have worked so hard to hide, but it can also be a huge relief to finally let go of their secret and share what they’re going through. Deciding whom they can trust with such personal information can be difficult.

Encourage children and youngsters to look out and even try out our service. As the online help is anonymous and confidential, children and youth dare to speak for the first time about their thoughts, their anxieties, their sorrows, their problems. That’s why very often, we are contacted from youngsters harming themselves.
Fully trained volunteers can provide support, information and appropriate signposting of places to get on-going support in Luxembourg. To use this service or for more information contact www.kjt.lu.

Sources: Wikipedia, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: ''Self-Injury in Adolescents.'', National Institute of Mental Health: ''Borderline Personality Disorder.'', helpguide.org, Smitha Bhandari, MD, webmd.com.