Nonsuicidal self-injury disorder, better known as self-harm, is characterized by the purposeful actions of causing physical harm to oneself without the intention of committing suicide. This behavior is more common in teenagers and adolescents and occurs due to severe underlying emotional pain and a lack of healthy coping skills. Self-harm behaviors are coping ways to release emotions related to anger, sadness, neglect, pain and frustration; after the harmful act is completed, the individual emotional and mental relief quickly followed by shame or guilt resulting in more negative emotions; repeating this viscous cycle. Individuals who practice self-harm usually have a history of emotional, sexual or physical abuse, neglect, or trauma resulting in feelings of insecurity, excessive worry and extreme anger. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa are strongly associated with self-harm and individuals with these characteristics should be screened for self-harm and vice versa.
Individuals with eating disorders have a higher likelihood of developing other mental health disorders and substance abuse disorders. Studies have shown that individuals with eating disorders are more prone to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, self-harm behavior, and even suicide. Self-harm whether it is cutting, extreme scratching, skin carving or burning occurs in 30% of females who engage in disordered eating. These co-occurring conditions in the presence of an eating disorder can increase suicidal ideations and potentially lead to an individual taking his or her own life.
Eating disorders are a form of self-harm in a sense that they cause extreme havoc on the body and the mind however many individuals who engage in eating disorder behaviors such as restricting food, self-induced vomiting, binging, excessive exercise and diuretic and laxative abuse are unaware they are causing self-harm. Therefore self-harm is often associated with conscious self-injury behaviors such as cutting, skin carving, extreme scratching, or burning oneself as well punching or hitting walls to induce pain. Other examples include ingesting toxic chemicals, extreme skin picking, hair pulling and deliberate interference with wound healing.
These conscious mechanisms to induce self-harm are often coping mechanisms to deal with severe underlying negative emotions. Premeditative thoughts about cutting can occur throughout the day until an individual obsesses over these thoughts and must carry them out in a compulsive manner to relieve any negative stress. An individual engages in self-injury expecting to either gain relief from a negative emotion, to deal with a personal issue or create a positive feeling however after the self-injurious act is performed the individual will often feel shame or guilt resulting in significant distress leading them to self-injure once again; and the cycle repeats itself.
The same thoughts and compulsions are related to food and compulsive actions to relieve any caloric intake from the body. An individual who engages in binging and purging often obsesses about food throughout the day and will carry out these obsessions through compulsive acts such as binging and self-induced vomiting in order to relieve any negative feelings or thoughts.
Center For Discovery Eating Disorder Program Eating Disorder Treatment specialize in treating Self-Harm and Co-Occurring Eating Disorders with customized treatment for the individual to get well on the way to his/her eating disorder recovery.
Eating disorders are disorders of emotional distress and can lead to severe mood imbalances resulting in self-harm, feeling out of control and suicidal tendencies. One of the essential functions of eating disorder treatment is to learn to comprehend and tolerate emotions in a positive manner. It is necessary to seek treatment at the appropriate level of care and to work with a multi-disciplinary team. Individuals may feel like their “bad intense” emotions will never go away, but it’s important to remember that emotions are temporary. With treatment one can learn how to experience and express these built up emotions and how to do so on a regular basis so they don’t become overwhelming or terrifying potentially leading them to suicide.