People who Cut Themselves: The Science Behind Self-Harm as a Disease


Why Do People Self-Harm? The Science Behind Cutting

Deliberately inflicting pain or injury to oneself may seem incomprehensible to some, but the truth is self-harm is surprisingly common. In fact, approximately 1 in 5 people around the globe will deliberately injure themselves in their lifetime. But exactly why do people self-harm?

Also known as self-injury, self-harm is when someone intentionally hurts themselves through many different forms. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), one of the most common types of self-harm is cutting, but there are many other types of self-injury including burning or punching the body, or picking skin or sores. While there are usually many different reasons why someone intentionally hurts him or her self, often it’s a way of coping with difficult emotions.

Why Do People Self-Harm?

Self-harm can happen at any age but usually occurs during the teenage and young adult years. While self-harm itself is not classified as a mental illness, NAMI cites on its website that it’s instead a behavior that indicates a lack of coping skills, which may be part of a larger condition. In fact, one 2016 study linked self-harm with a metabolism disorder, and past studies have associated self-harm with borderline personality disorder, depression, eating disorders, and post-traumatic distress disorder.

Though many ideas on why do people self-harm have been offered, the answer to this question may vary from person to person. While there are no fixed rules about why people self-harm some people find that certain actions, such as drinking alcohol or taking drugs, act as self-harm triggers. According to NAMI, the people at the most risk are those who have experienced trauma, like childhood neglect or abuse, or sexually assault.

Here are some common self-harm triggers that often lead some to inflict injury on themselves.

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