Self-abuse: Causes, symptoms, and treatment

Self-harm syndrome is characterized by intentional acts of self-injury in order to relieve emotions, regain calm, and feel comfortable. It is estimated that about 4-5% of the population suffers from this disease with a higher rate in adolescents and young adults.

What is self-abuse?

Self-harm is one of the most common psychological disorders today. This syndrome is characterized by intentional acts of self-destruction, causing physical and emotional harm such as cutting hands, scratching, pulling hair, burning yourself, slapping, hitting in the face, etc. Some people imagine bad scenarios to put pressure on themselves and cause their own suffering.

People with self-harm do not feel pain from these behaviors. On the contrary, these behaviors make the patient feel lighter, more comfortable and at ease. However, these feelings only last for a short time. As a result, patients tend to repeat self-abusive behaviors for mental release. Most patients do not have suicidal thoughts, but self-harm behaviors can cause serious and life-threatening physical harm.

Self-harm syndrome has English names as Self Injury, Self-Harm, Self-Cutting, Self-Mutilation. According to statistics, about 4% of the US population suffers from this syndrome and the rate is higher in young people. Some surveys show that about 15% of teenagers and 17-35% of college students have symptoms of Self-Harm syndrome.

Many studies have shown that self-harming behaviors are actually a way of releasing unhealthy emotions due to lack of life skills. This is also the reason this syndrome mainly affects adolescents and young adults. People with life experience and equipped with the necessary skills will know how to release and control emotions in a healthy way. Therefore, the incidence of this syndrome will be lower than that of the above subjects.

Signs of self-abuse syndrome

As mentioned, self-harm is characterized by self-injurious behaviors. These behaviors can cause physical or emotional pain. However, the patient will not exhibit self-abusive behaviors in front of others. Therefore, people around can only be recognized through the marks on the body and accompanying symptoms (usually emotional disturbances, eating disorders and physical symptoms).

In general, patients with Self-Harm syndrome will experience three main groups of symptoms: self-abuse behaviors, emotional disturbances, and physical symptoms:

People with self-abuse syndrome often use razors to cut the skin on their wrists, legs, abdomen, etc.

People with self-abuse syndrome often use razors to cut the skin on their wrists, legs, abdomen, etc.

Self-harm behaviors commonly seen in patients with Self-Harm syndrome:

  • Cutting and incision is the most common behavior, accounting for 70-90%. The patient can use shards of bottles, crockery, and a razor blade to make an incision in the skin, the cut is deep enough to bleed but not to damage the internal organs. This behavior is repeated, causing scars on the wrists, ankles, arms, thighs, and abdomen.
  • In addition to cutting and slitting hands, patients have self-beating and head-banging behaviors (accounting for 21-44%). This self-abuse rarely leaves a mark. However, there are also cases of bruising, bleeding and quite severe head trauma.
  • Another common self-harm behavior is self-burn (15-35%). Patients often use a match or a cigarette to burn areas of the body. If you’re observant, your family and those around you can easily notice the burns and deep scars.
  • Use your hands to punch walls and objects to cause bleeding.
  • Infect yourself by contact with dirty utensils, sandy soil or possibly having unprotected sex with the purpose of getting the disease.
  • Drink bleach or harmful drugs to punish yourself.
  • Intentionally breaking bones (usually small bones like finger bones)
  • Scratching with hands causes pain and bleeding
  • Hair pulling
  • Fasting to starve to punish yourself
  • Using hands or objects that rub repeatedly on the skin to cause burns, open wounds and rashes
  • Some people picture themselves in situations of tragedy, poverty, need, or being criticized or ridiculed for the purpose of causing emotional distress.
  • Injuries are more concentrated in the wrists, arms, abdomen, … and rarely in the lower body.
  • The patient could not give a reasonable explanation for the marks on the body
  • Although the self-abusive behaviors cause pain, the person himself feels more comfortable, relaxed, reduces stress, and becomes calmer. However, these feelings only last for a very short time. The patient then repeats the self-harm behavior with the aim of releasing emotions and freeing themselves from the torment, frustration, and frustration.

Self-abuse acts are done to create emotional and physical pain. The patient did not intentionally commit these acts with the intent of suicide. However, self-destructive behaviors can cause body disfigurement, blood infections, and serious, life-threatening health problems.

Symptoms of emotional disturbances:

In addition to the self-abusive behaviors, the patient also exhibits emotional disturbances. According to experts, pent-up emotions are the main reason that motivates patients to perform self-destructive behaviors to relieve themselves.

People with Self-Harm

People with Self-Harm syndrome often experience emotional disturbances (insecurity, anxiety, sadness, stress, etc.)

People with self-harm syndrome often experience emotional disturbances such as:

  • Constant feeling of tension, restlessness, insecurity, anxiety
  • Bored, sad and tired
  • Sensitive mood, easily angry and angry with people around. However, some people tend to hide their feelings and only express their anger when they are alone.
  • Most likely, patients will have accompanying sleep disorders, most commonly insomnia, restless sleep, difficulty falling asleep and waking up easily in the middle of the night.
  • Low self-respect
  • Difficulty controlling and managing emotions
  • Patients with self-harm will experience emotional disturbances most of the day.

If you look closely, you will notice that the patient always has a melancholy, tired face but does not have a sad mood like someone with depression. The patient’s emotions are often repressed, leading to the urge to perform self-harm to relieve the mood.

Accompanying physical symptoms:

Patients with Self-Harm syndrome often experience a number of accompanying physical symptoms such as:

  • High blood pressure, tightness in the left breast, fast, irregular heartbeat and often palpitations
  • The breathing rate is shallow, the breathing is rapid, and the patient is constantly afraid of suffocation
  • Hyperventilation (shortness of breath associated with excessive anxiety)
  • Throat choking
  • Nausea, difficulty swallowing, constipation, diarrhea, reflux, stomach pain, etc.
  • Headache, insomnia, dizziness, double vision, decreased concentration and memory
  • Patients may also experience symptoms due to autonomic nervous system disorders such as restlessness, restlessness, sweating, cold limbs, nervousness, etc.
  • Poor health, weight loss and paleness

Similar to other psychological disorders, self-harm causes problems in relationships, reduced academic and work performance. Patients tend to withdraw, live a closed life and rarely meet.

Causes of self-harm

Experts have not found the exact cause of Self-Harm syndrome. Currently, many theories have been put forward. In it, experts support the theory that self-harm syndrome is an unhealthy emotional release in people who have suffered from chronic stress or strong trauma. In addition, this syndrome has also been identified to be related to a number of biological and psycho-social factors.

Tobacco, alcohol, and drug use are risk factors for self-harm

Tobacco, alcohol, and drug use are risk factors for self-harm

Causes and factors thought to be related to self-abuse syndrome:

  • Chronic stress causes psychological inhibition (study pressure, financial pressure, family expectations, psychological inhibition due to bullying, ostracism, violence, etc.)
  • The family lacks care or control over the children and educates them in a draconian fashion.
  • Families and schools do not equip students with healthy stress-relieving skills. Lack of life skills makes them have difficulty in learning as well as in life leading to many stressful situations. Accumulated stress causes psychological inhibition and urges self-abusive behavior to relieve mental stress.
  • Facing psychological trauma that causes serious mental damage but is not resolved in time. Traumatic events that can cause self-abuse syndrome include parental divorce, abandonment, abuse, violence, witnessing a serious family accident, etc.
  • Sudden hormonal changes are also considered a risk factor for self-harm. Experts believe that changing hormones play a role in shaping impulsive behaviors and emotions to attract the attention of others.
  • The risk of Self-Harm syndrome may be increased if you make friends or live with people with this syndrome.
  • Self-harm syndrome can be the result of psychological problems such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. People with these conditions are often emotional. unstable and repressed. As a result, patients may repeat self-harm behaviors to relieve emotions and regain calm and comfort.
  • Substance use and alcohol abuse
  • Has a weak artist personality (characteristics of this personality type are superficial emotions, mood swings, weakness, lack of life skills, etc.)
  • People who develop group B personality disorder are at increased risk for self-harm. Abusive behaviors will help the patient release emotions and get everyone’s attention (especially those with narcissism and borderline personality disorder).

Self-harm syndrome can occur for a variety of reasons. In it, there is always the role of severe stress or accumulated stress (chronic stress). In addition, the risk is higher in adolescents and young adults due to hormonal changes, limited experience and life skills.

Self-harm and its consequences

Self-harm is a fairly common psychological syndrome with an estimated prevalence of 4-5% of the population. The patient intentionally performs self-harming behaviors to regain calm, feel comfortable and reduce anxiety, restlessness, insecurity, etc. Although these behaviors are not performed on purpose. suicide but can still be life-threatening (due to blood loss, infection, poor health).

In recent years, the proportion of adolescents and young adults who engage in self-harm behaviors has increased significantly. However, community and family understanding on this issue is very limited. Therefore, the majority of patients are not examined and treated early. As a result, you have to face serious complications such as:

  • Facing physical health problems caused by self-harm behaviors such as body disfigurement, permanent disability, infections, infectious diseases that cannot be completely treated such as hepatitis B, HIV, etc.
  • Abuse of alcohol, smoking and drugs
  • Living a closed life, few friends and difficult to maintain long-term relationships
  • Due to unstable and somewhat abnormal emotions, patients are easily isolated and ostracized at school and work
  • Studies have shown that self-harm syndrome can increase crime rates. Some patients claim that theft and breaking the law can relieve stress, feelings of insecurity, restlessness and anxiety.
  • Self-Harm syndrome causes patients to reduce their work and study performance. From there, it causes many financial problems, poor ability, difficulty in finding a job, and difficulty in dating and marriage.

If co-occurring with other mental disorders, the patient will often commit acts of abuse of a serious nature. These behaviors can be disfiguring and sometimes life-threatening.

Diagnosis of self-abuse syndrome

Most patients with self-harm syndrome are not actively examined and treated. However, there are also some cases of going to a doctor with the aim of treating accompanying psychological disorders such as anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, etc.

Self-Harm syndrome is usually diagnosed by clinical presentation. The doctor may ask the patient to perform some laboratory tests to rule out the possibility. Cases with multiple psychological and psychiatric disorders at the same time will have difficulty in diagnosis and may have to re-diagnose due to incorrect initial diagnosis.

Self-abuse will be diagnosed by clinical presentation

Self-abuse will be diagnosed by clinical presentation

When self-injury marks are detected on the body, the doctor can ask the patient why he is doing so. People with self-harm syndrome often engage in self-harm for the following purposes:

  • Punish yourself for thinking you’ve made a serious mistake
  • Show your frustration and repression for everyone to see
  • Attract people’s attention and interest (common in people who do not receive the love and attention of their family)
  • Relieve feelings of suffering, anxiety, stress, insecurity. After performing self-destructive behaviors, the person
  • himself will feel a sense of relief and comfort.
  • Some people may engage in self-destructive behavior with the aim of controlling themselves and not wanting to show negative emotions.
  • Many patients want to feel pain because they are so empty.

Self-harm treatments

Currently, there is no optimal treatment for self-abuse syndrome. Among them, psychotherapy is considered the most effective method. Early examination and treatment can reduce self-destructive behaviors and help patients find healthier emotional release.

Here are the methods used in the treatment of self-harm syndrome:

1. Psychotherapeutic intervention

Psychotherapy is the most effective method in improving and managing Self-Harm syndrome. The purpose of this method is to help patients change their erroneous thoughts, equip themselves with skills in managing and regulating emotions, and learn how to improve their self-worth. Thereby minimizing self-destructive behaviors and directing patients to a healthy lifestyle.

In psychotherapy, professionals help people develop healthy problem-solving and stress-reduction skills. Thus, the patient will not experience repressed and inhibited emotions. In addition, patients will also develop social skills to easily make friends, maintain relationships and know how to handle conflicts and conflicts in life.

For patients with self-harm syndrome due to a lack of family attention, harsh education, and discipline, a combination of group and family therapy may be required. Depending on the specific situation, the psychologist will choose the appropriate approach for each patient.

Psychotherapeutic methods are applied to patients with self-harm syndrome:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy
  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy
  • Group therapy, family
  • Supportive therapies such as music therapy, yoga, art therapy, etc.

Not only effective for self-abuse syndrome, psychotherapy also helps to improve accompanying psychological and psychiatric disorders.

2. Drug use

Medication is not the mainstay of treatment for Self-Harm syndrome. Despite this, some medications are still used to improve mood disorders, insomnia, depression, and somatic symptoms. The most commonly used drugs are SSRIs (serotonin reuptake inhibitors) because they are highly effective, have few side effects, and are relatively safe for adolescents and young adults.

While on medication, patients may experience increased levels of self-harm behaviors and even commit suicide (especially among adolescents). At present, experts are not clear about the mechanism by which taking SSRIs can increase suicide rates. Therefore, the family needs to follow the patient closely during the first time taking the drug to avoid unfortunate situations.

3. The role of the family

People with self-harm syndrome need family attention. Most of the patients are too harshly educated by their families, have high expectations, are imposed and over-managed. Or do not receive attention and affection from family.

For the treatment process to bring good results, the family needs to participate in psychotherapy together with the patient. From there can change the way of education and know how to behave more appropriately. The care and encouragement of the family will help the patient persevere in treatment and learn how to share and relieve stress in a healthy way.

The family needs support and encouragement for the patient to overcome self-abuse syndrome

The family needs support and encouragement for the patient to overcome self-abuse syndrome

In addition, the family should regularly talk to the patient so that the patient can comfortably share their feelings and problems encountered in life. When shared, patients can release emotions, thereby avoiding psychological inhibitions and urges to perform self-harm. Through this, the patient will also learn healthy mental release and become aware of the deviance of self-abusive behavior.

People with Self-Harm syndrome often have poor health, debilitated by erratic eating and the consequences of self-harming behaviors. Therefore, the family needs to build a reasonable diet, directing the patient to healthy habits such as exercising, getting enough sleep, listening to music, using herbal tea, taking a warm bath to relax. In addition, it is necessary to remove objects that can cause injury and pay attention to the marks on the body to bring the patient to the hospital when necessary.

Self-harm syndrome is becoming more common in recent years. Because the patients are mainly teenagers and students, the treatment process requires the support of the family. Patients themselves rarely take the initiative to examine and treat. Therefore, the family and people around need to have knowledge about Self-Harm syndrome so that the patient has the opportunity to receive timely medical examination and treatment.

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