In the United States, self-harm and addiction are two big issues with devastating effects. Unfortunately, the problem usually starts early.
Each year, 1 in 5 females and 1 in 7 males engage in self-injury, with an estimated 90% of them beginning in adolescent years.
People who are struggling with addiction are far more likely to engage in this self-destructive behavior, and it needs to be addressed.
If you believe a loved one is engaging in self-harm, it is important to find out for sure and address the problem. Let’s find out how.
Self-Harm and Addiction
Unfortunately, it seems as if self-harm and addiction go hand-in-hand too often. Depression is likely to lead to addiction as well as the other way around.
Why do people self-harm? Well, it is never intended as an antidote, but simply an outlet for temporary relief.
Sadly, self-harm can be as addictive as the substance they are abusing. This is because temporary relief is never enough to solve a chronic problem, and the person suffering may feel the need to do it more.
While self-harm is widely associated with cutting, that is far from the only method that people in pain will use.
While cutting and burning are the most common methods, many people choose unique outlets (that we won’t discuss) to relieve their emotional pain.
Some people are more likely to harm themselves than others, but that is not always relevant. While an estimated 4% of adults are believed to self-harm, high school and college students are believed to self-harm at a rate between 15% and 35%.
While self-harm is not intended to be lethal, mixing the process with drugs or alcohol, in this case, is certainly a dangerous combination that needs to be addressed. So how do we find out?
The Noticeable Signs of Self-Harm
When somebody is struggling with addiction, they will likely try to hide it or deny it. The problem here is that when somebody is already in the mindset of hiding the truth, they are likely to do what they can to keep their self-harming habits to themselves.
Luckily, there are a few indicators that we can use to determine if somebody is harming themselves, or if they are at risk for such a dangerous habit.
Behavioral clues can be very helpful in determining self-harm. These behaviors should be monitored if you believe your loved one is hurting themselves. Here are just a few examples.
If your loved one is constantly wearing long-sleeve shirts or sweatshirts even in warm weather, this should be looked into. If you are in a warm environment, try asking them if they want to take off their sweatshirt or change into something more weather-appropriate to gauge their response.
If your loved one is buying or using their bandage supply frequently or keeping antibiotic ointment with them, asking why they carry it can give you the answers you need.
Isolation and portraying fear of being around people at certain times is a possible indicator. Try encouraging them to join you in a social activity to see their response and hopefully get them out of the problematic environment.
Having razor blades or any burning materials stored in their personal spaces are key indicators, but we can’t advise you to look into their belongings as this may affect their trust and even make the situation worse. Noticing these materials naturally is a big indicator.
Self-harm is not always as obvious as visible scars on somebody’s wrist. Many people will try to hide any marks in any way necessary, and there are many ways to hide it.
Some people will try to harm themselves on body parts that can be covered by a bathing suit. For both men and women, scars are more likely to appear on their upper thighs or hips.
Other methods could be using techniques that don’t leave scars, but we won’t get into details on those methods.
So, unless you are able to look for scars when they are not visible with shorts and a t-shirt, it can be tricky to notice physical signs.
If somebody fits the behavioral criteria, look for any physical signs that you can, such as walking strangely while under the influence as if they have just been injured.
What To Do
If a loved one is harming themselves, it is time to step in—in a loving manner, of course. These are very delicate situations that need to be handled appropriately.
An intervention is appropriate for the gravity of such a situation, but they need to be proper interventions. Remember that addiction and self-harm are two of the most dangerous problems for somebody’s personal safety, so intervening needs to be done correctly.
Offer the person as much support as possible, but be sure to give direct solutions to their issues in the form of treatment.
Self-harm is not a side effect of addiction; it is a behavior associated with depression and a lack of self-worth. Because of this, dual diagnosis treatment may be the best help that your loved one can receive.
Dual diagnosis treatment is specially designed for people who are struggling with addiction as well as a mental health disorder. No matter the addiction, self-medication often follows with PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
This may be the best way to get your loved one the help they need.
It is very clear that self-harm and addiction are both serious issues that need to be addressed, and it is extremely overwhelming when the two collide.
However, even if it is scarier, it becomes more important to solve the issue as quickly as possible before any serious damage has been done.