For many people who have loved ones who self-harm, it’s a very confusing, heart-wrenching time. It can be hard to understand why they are doing this and it is incredibly painful to watch. There are a multitude of reasons as to why one hurts his/herself and understanding why someone participates in self-harm is one of the first steps in helping someone heal from this type of pain. There are many reasons but in this post we’ll focus on the three most common reasons that people participate in self-harm.

  1. Inability to Regulate Emotions
  2. Reprieve from the numbness
  3. Makes them feel supported/love


More often than not, people who self-harm lack an ability to properly regulate their emotions. Self-harm opens up a way for them to accomplish this. It becomes an incredibly effective, yet incredibly unhealthy coping mechanism. What happens in this regulation cycle is that as the emotional discomfort becomes too much, self-harming causes a spike of adrenaline which helps to numb that discomfort and pain. This gives the person a sense of control that they lacked before. Unfortunately this control only lasts for a short time. Soon this process of self-harm begins to bring with it a sense of shame and fear, which causes the sufferer further loss of control of their emotions in the long run. This is especially true of those who chronically self-harm, as it becomes the only way that they can deal with their emotions.


For those who constantly are experiencing deep emotional pain, they sometimes begin to feel complete emotional numbness in response. This numbness can be devastating to an individual and often in order to feel anything, these individual’s turn to self-harm. Self-harm can be a reprieve from this numbness because it’s good to feel something. One patient at Sunrise self-harm helps her feel alive and to know she exists. That it feels good to feel anything, even if it is painful.


One common thing that happens among those who self-harm is that they notice that as they self-harm, many people will rush in and offer support, love, and concern for them. Though completely unintentional, this rush of support can often times reinforce such behavior. They begin to realize that when they feel alone, numb, or depressed they can hurt themselves and they’ll be comforted by those who care about them. They begin to use self-harm to form relationships they didn’t think they were able to form. But sadly, self-harm generally has the opposite effect as it erodes relationships. Those close to sufferers begin to feel like they are being manipulated and used by the self-harmer, which cause the person to sink further into harming themselves to connect with loved ones and it becomes a cycle. So when a person is taught through therapy how to form relationships in a healthier, more meaningful way; the need to self-harm goes away with it.
Understanding the motivations behind self-harm can you help you get your daughter the help she needs to heal from her emotional pain. It can help you understand your role in her healing and allow you to grow closer to her as well. If you feel that your daughter could benefit from the services we offer at Sunrise, please call us at 435-900-7753.