Research Proposal on Self-Harm

Self-harm is a self-destructive behavior that involves the self-infliction of damage, for example by vomiting, cutting or burning own flash. Nine out of ten hospitalized for self-harm have hurt themselves by poisoning, such as drug-poisoning.

The person who hurt himself does not do it in order to commit suicide, but through such a behavior tries to experiences a positive self-punishment, transferring the pain from the mind to the body. Those who exhibit this behavior can also say they experience a sense of calm afterwards.

The psychiatrist Karl Menninger became in 1935 the first to describe self-injurious acts as a separate phenomenon, distinct from suicide attempts and suicide.

Self-harm is a depressive behavior and can have many causes, mostly anxiety, but it does not always have a clear reason.

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Some people may harm themselves without finding an obvious reason for doing this, in the same way as a depression can affect a person for no apparent reason. Depression with anxiety is by far the most common cause of the behavior. Self-harm is often perceived as addictive. The attempts to prevent the person from getting hurt or just saying that the person must stop hurting himself, are often not easy. Such a person can sink too deep into the depression considering individual self-injury as a daily chore, just like eating and sleeping.

Self-harm is fully comparable with other addictions. The affected person may consider the purchase of a larger/sharper weapon, various forms of clothing that hides the wounds, bandages and the like to not “leak” blood through the clothes from fresh wounds. She or he is planning his relations and his activities around whether it will work to have long sleeves or not (for example avoiding compliance with the gym or the beach). There may also be an obsessive problem with the person that must cut a certain number of cuts to make up for a particular event or for other behaviors, or a belief that a certain number of cuts is right “dose of medicine” for the level anxiety the person feels at that time.

Thus, self-harm can be considered a method, a tool to distract oneself from spiritual pain. The physical pain is easier to “deal with,” to vent the overwhelming negative emotions experienced by the person. Some also argue that it creates a cleaning and thus the therapeutic effect of seeing the blood drain from the body. Pain in the body also triggers endorphins, giving the person a kick and a sense of peace and security, which may also explain the addictive risk of it all. Self-harming behavior also gives the person an opportunity to bandage himself afterwards, which for many also creates a sense of security and independence.

As far as treatment for self-harm and depression in young, mentalization-based therapy has shown good results.

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