Self-harm involves deliberately causing injury to oneself and is sometimes used as a short-term coping strategy for managing negative emotions such as guilt, anger, and shame. However, self-harm rarely solves a person’s problems but instead leads to worse outcomes. Self-harm is not a formal mental health disorder, but it can require professional behavioral health treatment.
If you or someone you love is engaging in self-harm, it is crucial for you or your loved one to receive care from a qualified professional. At Coachella Valley Behavioral Health, we provide inpatient care for adults age 18 and older who are engaging in self-harm. Our team of multidisciplinary professionals can help patients develop effective coping strategies so that they can live happier, healthier lives.
Common Signs & Symptoms of Self-Harm
The signs and symptoms of self-harm can vary from person to person and depend on the methods used to inflict injury. It can be difficult to detect self-harm in a loved one because it is often a private behavior that the person takes extreme measures to hide. However, common signs that someone may be self-harming include:
- Frequent unexplained injuries: The person may have unexplained marks, burns, or bruises, often in a pattern or on the same part of the body each time you observe them.
- Wearing long sleeves or long pants: Those who are self-harming may wear clothing that conceals their arms and legs, even when the weather is hot, to hide self-inflicted injuries.
- Difficulties in relationships: If a person is self-harming, they can often feel that no one understands what they’re experiencing and can isolate themselves to hide wounds.
- Expressions of distress: Because it can be difficult for those who self-harm to directly discuss their self-harming behaviors, noticing distress can be an important part of getting a loved one the help they need.
- Collection of sharp tools or other self-harming objects: If someone has a collection of sharp tools like knives, razor blades, or needles, it can be a sign that they are self-harming.
- Marks or scars: The presence of marks or scars can be a sign of self-harm.
People may self-harm for a variety of reasons. They may feel numb, and self-harming helps them overcome feelings of emptiness. They may be trying to distract themselves from emotional pain. Whatever the reason, it’s important for someone who is self-harming to receive compassionate support that can help them develop healthier coping strategies for handling negative emotions.
A person may also display emotional symptoms that could indicate that they are engaging in self-harming behaviors. Emotional symptoms of self-harm can include:
- Impulsive or unpredictable behavior
- Intense mood swings
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Low self-esteem
- Shame and guilt
- Feelings of numbness
- Emotional withdrawal
If someone you know is showing signs that they may be hurting themselves, you can help them by showing empathy and compassion. Whether you listen or help them find professional treatment, you can make a difference.
Potential Effects of Self-Harm
Those who self-harm commonly do so to cope with painful underlying emotions. However, this short-term fix can lead to even more distressing emotions down the road. When a person uses self-harm as a coping tool, they don’t learn healthy ways to manage difficult emotions. The result can be a cycle of self-harming behavior that involves a triggering negative emotion, the urge to self-harm, the act of self-harming, temporary relief, shame, and the return of emotional pain.
Potential outcomes of engaging in self-harm include:
- Serious injuries, such as bruising and tissue damage
- Intense guilt or shame, which can contribute to a cycle of self-destructive behavior
- Infections due to injuries such as open wounds
- Avoidance of social, work, or academic opportunities
- Onset of co-occurring mental health concerns
- Increased risk for death by suicide
Engaging in self-harm can lead to negative outcomes. However, professional treatment can help those who self-harm heal. It is possible to interrupt the cycle of self-harm and learn healthy coping strategies that can lead to a fulfilling lifestyle.
An international study published by Frontiers in Psychology reports the following facts and statistics about self-harm:
- Approximately 7.5%-46.5% of adolescents self-harm.
- Around 38.9% of college students have engaged in self-harm.
- Risk factors for self-harm include childhood abuse, stressful life events, and separation from a parent. Members of the LGBTQ+ community and those who have been bullied are also at risk for engaging in self-harm.
- Research shows that women are more likely than men to engage in self-harm.
- The onset of self-harm typically occurs between the ages of 12 and 14.
- Those who engage in self-harm often have co-occurring mental health concerns and substance use disorders.
This study’s findings show that early prevention can be important for helping those who self-harm. If you or a loved one is engaging in self-harm behaviors, receiving professional help can be crucial.
How To Help a Loved One
Because of the often secretive nature of self-harm behaviors, it can be difficult to know for sure if a loved one is self-harming. If you see indications that your loved one may be self-harming, here are some steps you can take to support them:
- Make time to talk: Choosing a specific time and a location where you and your loved one can have a private meeting can create the appropriate environment for a discussion.
- Actively listen: While you may feel the urge to lecture your loved one about why they shouldn’t self-harm, actively listening and trying to understand their feelings and actions can be more effective. If your loved one feels comfortable sharing their feelings, they can find the courage to get further help.
- Educate yourself on self-harm: Understanding the psychology behind self-harm and researching the behavioral healthcare options that are effective in treating self-harm can help you understand and care for your loved one.
- Resist passing judgment: If your loved one feels judged and misunderstood, they may feel that they need to continue to hide their emotions and actions from you.
- Offer support: Once you have listened to your loved one share their thoughts and feelings, you can offer your support and care.
- Encourage them to get professional help: You can express your understanding but also suggest that your loved one receive professional treatment for self-harm.
- Intervene if necessary: It’s important to respect your loved one’s boundaries. However, if they’re in danger of serious medical implications, it may be necessary to contact emergency services even if they don’t want you to do so.
Inpatient Self-Harm Treatment at Coachella Valley Behavioral Health
At Coachella Valley Behavioral Health, we provide individualized care to help our patients stabilize and begin healing. Our team designs a personalized treatment plan for each patient based on information we gather from an in-depth assessment they complete. Treatment plans at Coachella Valley Behavioral Health may include:
- Evidence-based therapies: Our therapists and counselors use evidence-based therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to help patients identify and change negative thought and behavioral patterns.
- Art and music therapies: Art and music therapy sessions can help our patients express themselves through nonverbal outlets.
- Group therapy: At Coachella Valley Behavioral Health, our nurses and therapists lead daily group therapy sessions, which give patients the chance to meet each other and share their insights and support with each other.
- Family therapy: Social workers and therapists provide family therapy sessions for patients and their families, which can include having discussions on topics like self-harm, communication strategies, and boundary setting.
- Medication management services: We provide medication management services for patients whose treatment plans include prescription medications.
- Motivational interviewing: Therapists use motivational interviewing, which includes a series of open-ended questions, to help patients set and achieve their therapeutic goals.
- Medical care: We provide basic medical care for patients who need it.
- Co-occurring disorders treatment: For patients who have co-occurring mental health concerns and co-occurring substance use disorders, we treat these concerns simultaneously for optimal results.
We provide clinically excellent care at Coachella Valley Behavioral Health’s self-harm inpatient treatment center. Patients who receive care at our hospital can benefit from the combined experience of our professionals, including:
- Registered nurses
- Physician assistants
- Licensed clinical social workers
- Licensed therapists
- Art and music therapists
- Yoga instructors
Our multidisciplinary team provides evidence-based therapies and medical services, and our hospital offers the following features and services:
- Safety features throughout our treatment center
- Beautifully landscaped outdoor spaces for our patients and their visitors to enjoy
- A well-appointed cafeteria
- A full gymnasium
- Discharge planning and aftercare referrals
If you have any questions or would like to start the admissions process, please call our admissions team today. We are available 24/7 to speak with you.
This content was written on behalf of and reviewed by the clinical staff at Coachella Valley Behavioral Health.