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The 10 types of self-harm and associated disorders

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Self-harm are behaviors in which the person harms himself, either through cuts, burns or blows. The first autolytic behaviors usually appear during adolescence, with young adults who also present them.

Next we are going to do a review of what they are, in addition to seeing the types of self-harm that exist, what personality characteristics do the people who perform them present and what disorders and traumatic events can influence their appearance.

  • Related article: "Non-Suicidal Self-Injury: Who is Affected and Why Does It Occur?"

What are self-harm?

Self-harm are any conduct, intentional and self-directed, that involves some type of damage, immediate destruction of body tissues and the formation of wounds.

It can manifest itself in the form of different types of injuries, such as cuts, marks on the skin, burns, mutilations or beatings, associated with a wide variety of psychological problems and disorders mental. This type of behavior does not include drug overingestion or poisoning with intent to kill.

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Self-harm is not intended to be a suicide attempt, although this does not mean that the person who commits it has not considered taking his or her life on other occasions. These are harmful and maladaptive ways of dealing with emotional pain, anger, and frustration. It is a way of feeling that you have control of the situation, hurting yourself and feeling a momentary calm and release of tension. However, after self-harm comes guilt and shame, painful emotions return.

Types of self-harm

Self-harm can be classified into two main types. The first has to do with the action itself, that is, what kind of injury it causes. The second has more to do with the severity and frequency of the self-injurious behavior itself.

According to the type of wound

Of types of self-injury according to the wound they cause, we have the following types.

1. Cuts

Cuts can be made with all kinds of sharp objects, such as knives, cutters, threads, needles, razor blades, or even fingernails. It involves making deep cuts or scratches in various parts of the body, such as arms, legs and the front of the torso, which are the places where self-harm is most often done, since they are easily concealed with sleeve clothing long.

Cutting can become a habit, in the form of compulsive behavior. The more times the person has cut themselves, the more need they have to do so when a stressful stimulus or a situation that causes anxiety appears.

The brain begins to connect the false sense of calm as a good strategy to deal with negative emotions.

2. Abrasions and burns

The person may compulsively scratch until blood comes out, or rubbing objects such as cloth, tape, or other materials to produce a friction burn. You can also burn yourself with fire, using matches, lighted cigarettes, or hot knives, or throwing yourself hot on yourself.

3. Burn words or pierce your skin

Words or symbols are engraved on the skin with cutters or sharp objects and, as with cuts, they are usually made in parts that are easy to hide, such as arms and legs.

Within this category, many piercings and tattoos could be included, since it could be a indicator of being in a lot of emotional pain and wanting to cope with the pain caused by the needle tattooed.

4. Hitting, punching, or hitting the head

They can hit the chest, stomach, behind the head, or even ram into a wall or door.

5. Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania is an urge to pull hair, both from the scalp such as eyebrows, mustache, beard, nose or other parts of the body. It can go from a habit to an addiction, being a behavior present in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Pulling out hair implies bald spots, since the hair does not have time to grow or, even, the alopecia has accelerated. This causes people who have this behavior to wear hats, caps, or wigs.

  • You may be interested: "Trichotillomania: the strange obsession with pulling out hair"

6. Dermatillomania

Dermatillomania is the self-injurious behavior of reopening wounds, pulling off scabs or new skin, removing the stitches or plasters.

According to the severity of the injury

Depending on how serious and concealed the self-injurious behaviors are, we have the following types of injuries.

1. Stereotyped self-injurious behaviors

Acts that take place anywhere, ranging from minor to serious injuries.

2. Major self-injurious behaviors

They involve some kind of amputation. They are associated with severe and psychotic psychopathology.

3. Compulsive self-injurious behaviors

Repetitive, ritualistic behaviors that occur multiple times a day, such as nail biting (oncophagia), pulling and eating hair (trichotillomania) or hitting the back of the head.

4. Impulsive self-injurious behaviors

There is concern about harming yourself. It is an urge that is difficult to resist, which produces anxiety, with a subsequent feeling of relief and no suicide attempt.

What characteristics do people who self-harm have?

There are a number of common personality traits in people who self-harm, although it should also be noted that having lived through a traumatic situation and going through a stressful one are factors that influence the appearance of these behaviors.

It is not at all uncommon to observe that the people who perform this type of behavior have clear deficits in emotional abilities. That is, they have problems with awareness and the expression of their emotions, and not knowing how to deal with them, nor do they know why they feel this way, they resort to self-destructive behaviors.

A rather striking trait is self-criticism, insecurity and perfectionism. They are people who tend to be very strict with themselves, who show their dissatisfaction with what they are or what they have not achieved with outbursts of anger and self-directed aversion. Self-harm is a kind of self-punishment, and it is not difficult to find that deep down there is a clear problem of low self-esteem, in addition to negative emotionality.

Why do they self-harm?

Cutting, burning, or assaulting yourself in any way is one of emotional pain management, albeit ineffective. The person may be going through a very stressful situation, and does not know how to cope adaptively, basically because he does not know how to identify the origin of what is causing him psychological damage.

When he hurts himself, when he hurts himself, the pain becomes specific and localized, he knows where it is. Transform something psychic into physical, directing your attention to the recent wound that has on the skin, the bruise that has been caused or the burn that has occurred.

Psychological problems and disorders

Self-harm doesn't have to last a lifetime. Sometimes they occur in times, where the person is going through a tense situation. However, there are mental disorders in which this type of behavior is a symptom. They also appear even when the person is being the victim of an assault, as in bullying or partner abuse.

  • The main psychiatric disorders in which they can appear are:
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Major depression.
  • Anxiety disorders, such as PTSD
  • Bipolar disorder.
  • Eating disorder.
  • ADHD
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drug addiction

In addition to having been a victim of:

  • Sexual and physical abuse.
  • Bullying and cyberbullying.
  • Dysfunctional family.
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