What are the symptoms of self-harm?

Because self-harm is often hidden from others, it can be difficult to notice the symptoms and signs. Common symptoms of self-harm are scars from cuts, fresh wounds, relationship problems, and broken bones. Those who choose to keep self-harm a secret wear long pants and sleeves, even during hot weather. Many self-injurers spend a lot of time alone and have sharp objects nearby.

Indications of self-harm include finding blood-stained clothing and noticing words or symbols carved into the skin. People who get hurt can make deep cuts in their skin or pull out their hair. Experts believe that people who self-harm also suffer from depression. Self-mutilators go to great lengths to hide their problem from others. To hide scar marks, some self-injurers may wear multiple layers of bracelets around their wrists.

Some people only hurt themselves a few times and then stop. However, self-mutilation can become a repetitive behavior, occurring several times instead of once or twice. The most common areas on the body to self-harm are the legs, arms, and torso because they can be easily reached and hidden under clothing.

The cause varies. Different people respond to stress in various ways, with some choosing to self-mutilate as a way to cope. Experts believe that these differences in stress management stem from biological makeup or traumatic experience at a young age. Intense feelings of anger can stem from a person's upbringing, and children with abusive parents lack role models for managing stress in healthy ways.

Experts believe that people who hurt themselves are not necessarily suicidal. Self-mutilation is, in fact, seen as the opposite of suicide. People who self-harm do so to make themselves feel better during the day rather than trying to end their lives. However, the nature of self-mutilation is physically damaging to the body and it is important for self-harmers to seek help immediately.

Self-harm can be prevented, but a person may not be able to stop themselves. Those who notice the symptoms of self-harm in others can help by referring counselors and support groups. Support groups can reduce the severity and frequency of self-mutilation, and a psychologist or psychiatrist can tailor a treatment strategy to each individual.

Teens who notice symptoms of self-harm within themselves need to trust someone who can help them find better ways to cope. Guidance counselors, social workers, parents, or other trusted adults can be helpful.

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