Compassionate Acceptance


 Glenn Bigonet, M.A.

Mental Health Counselor

Certified EFT  Therapist





Self-Harmful Behavior


Reasons Why People Hurt Themselves

People participate in self-harmful behavior for a variety of reasons.  The most common of these are:

  • As a reaction to trauma or abuse
  • To numb the pain of despair
  • To release emotional pain
  • To feel something when they feel dead inside
  • To stop the feeling of being invisible
  • To distract themselves from their emotional pain
  • To gain a sense of control
  • To punish themselves for being "bad" or "broken"
  • To satisfy the person’s need for stimulation or excitement
  • To gain a sense of connectedness

A common theme of these reasons is that they are survival techniques.  Those who cut or beat on or burn themselves are not trying to destroy themselves.  Many claim that these behaviors can be a powerful deterrent to suicide, a form of temporary salvation.  The victims of self-harming behaviors have in many cases survived tremendous traumas.  They use their self-harming behavior as a tool to ensure their continued survival.

What is Self-Harmful Behavior?

Self-mutilation has been defined as an individual’s intentionally damaging part of his or her own body without a conscious intent to die.   Self-harmful behavior is slightly broader than self-mutilation in that the body of the individual does not necessarily need to be mutilated to be harmed.  For many people such behavior is compulsive and feels uncontrollable.   Self-harmful behavior can include acts such as:

  • Cutting or Burning the Skin
  • Biting a Part of the Body
  • Pulling of Hair
  • Hitting the Body
  • Mutilation of Genitals or Breasts
  • Multiple Cosmetic Surgeries
  • Eating Disorders
  • Or Any Other of the Numerous Ways in Which Someone Can Hurt Their Own Body

Harming Yourself Does Not Mean You Are Crazy

When we think of someone performing acts of self-harm we tend to imagine a psychotic person who is somehow different from everybody else.  In reality there are many people who live relatively functional lives who harm their bodies through various methods.

My Approach to Self-Harmful Behavior

I create a safe and accepting environment for you to openly explore your self-harmful behavior in a way that works for you without the threat of psychiatric hospitalization.  I treat you with dignity and respect as you share your story at a pace that is comfortable to you while providing you with new coping skills to replace the self-harmful ones.  I also mix in treatment techniques from addictions and trauma treatment as necessary.  With some clients incorporating hypnotherapy with treatment greatly facilitates and expedites the recovery process.

Effects of Self-Harmful Behavior

In addition to the obvious harm and dangers of self-harmful behavior those who participate in it can experience:

  • Shame and guilt
  • Social isolation
  • Threat of losing job or relationships if the behavior is discovered
  • Feelings of self-betrayal
  • Lack of trust in themselves
  • A deeper level of despair and/or emotional turmoil

Self-Harmful Behavior as an Addiction

Self-harmful behavior can be addictive in nature.  The behavior is often repeated on a somewhat regular basis over an extended period of time.  It is also a behavior that creates a great amount of shame and guilt that creates the desire to want to stop the behavior.  Despite their efforts to stop, however, people who harm themselves continue to repeat their pattern of self-harm.  Although the behavior is often addictive in nature it cannot be treated solely as an addiction.  Treatment must include healing the underlying issues from past and/or current trauma and abuse.

Copyright © 2018   Glenn Bigonet, M.A.