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Why Self Injury is Not a Good Coping Mechanism

Welcome to a new portion of this website. I have often been asked, "Why is SI considered such a problem," or why is it considered bad etc. So below, I try to outline some of the reasons self injury is not a healthy coping mechanism, but a maladaptive or destructive one. It never helps recovery, only impedes it.

Yes, each person will deal with their problems in their way…in ways they find that work. In our cases (those that self injure or have self injured), we find that hurting ourselves bring relief…though only temporary relief. There are an infinite number of ways someone comes upon self injuring as a coping skill, but one fact remains the same: somewhere along the lines, you (or whoever is self injuring) has equated pain with relief. You find that the physical pain can help mask the emotional pain or take the edge off of it (much like alcohol).

There are several inherent problems with using self injury then. First and foremost, it is self destructive. Self injury isn’t just a coping mechanism…it is a self destructive act…like if you were an alcoholic, or drug user etc….you found a maladaptive coping mechanism…a self destructive act to help you through your pain. The self destructive nature of this ‘coping skill’ is the essential reason it should be replaced with a healthier coping skill.

There are several long-lasting effects of self injuring as well. There is the disfigurement, infections etc. that you run the risk of. Also, even if you feel that cutting is your only way to find relief- despite the short term relief you find in it…cutting has life-long effects. My life long effect- the very prominent scars that run up and down my arms. And some of them are words…and now I have to live with the remembrance of what I did, thus remembering the bad times for the rest of my life. Honestly, I wish I knew of a hell of a healthier way to have dealt with those bad times.

One of the main problems I see with self injury is it IS just another form of ABUSE. Many self injurers were abused at some point in their life (emotional, physical, sexual, any kind).

By abusing your body, you are continuing the cycle of abuse.

To me…that is the worst thing about self injury…that realization. In some way, I was letting my abusers win…because although I did/do not abuse others…I was abusing my own body. And in my eyes, that was letting them win. Somewhere the cycle of abuse has to end. And I finally decided it would end with me. No more.

Another aspect of self injuring that may make it seem like it isn’t so bad is the fact that at many times we feel we need self injury…that it’s the ONLY way to find relief…that it IS the only thing that is working. I fell pray to this for so long. But the fact of the matter is…self injury IS always a choice. We choose to hurt ourselves…and there are ALWAYS alternatives to SIing…even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. No matter how much we think we need SI…the fact always remains that it is a choice we make.

Yes, self injury is available to us, and yes it does provide some sort of temporary release…but at the same time…there are other coping mechanisms out there that can provide relief as well, and longer acting relief from our pain. To me, self injury seems like it becomes the best choice of action when our pain exceeds the strength of our coping skills. SI indicates our deep lack of coping skills/mechanisms.

So why is it bad…or not the best choice? It’s self destructive, continues the cycle of abuse, has long lasting negative effects…and the fact that there are actually healthy methods out there…and we won’t be willing to accept or find those healthy coping mechanism until we take SI out of the equation. As a society we are always seeking that which is a quick relief…and SI can provide that and perhaps over-shadow the greater need to seek help and learn a healthier way of living.

But as always...we have the choice to end the self-destructive tendencies and take responsibilities for our actions. There are ALWAYS alternatives to self injuring and healthy ones at that. As much as we always think we may need self injury, it is still a choice and it is still a want, and not a need. But most of all, I just want you to remember that you are continuing the cycle of abuse. And it needs to end somewhere.

I will try to add more to this, but I thought this was a good beginning!