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Why Are People With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Prone to Exhibiting Self-Harming Behaviors?


Self-harm is a complex behavior with many causes. The causes of self-harm often depend upon the person’s state of mental wellness. One of the misconceptions of self-harming behaviors is that self-harm is a way of seeking attention. While for some mental health diagnoses, attention-seeking may be the primary motivation for self-harm, for those with PTSD and trauma, self-harm is often used to express negative emotions. Most often, those engaging in self-harm will attempt to hide any signs of the behavior by covering up any resulting scars or traces of injury.

Self-harm usually takes the form of the following behaviors that are directed toward oneself: cutting, burning, punching, biting, needle-sticking, head-banging, and skin digging. Other behaviors of self-harm may not be on this list; however, any behavior intended to inflict pain upon oneself is broadly considered self-harm.

Self-harm can provide some relief from emotional pain by directing one’s focus to their self-inflicted bodily pain. While the person engaging in self-harm feels some emotional relief temporarily, the negative emotions will come back, often with greater intensity. The danger of self-harm is that the person could escalate the intensity of the behavior resulting in bodily damage and permanent mutilation.

Much like substance and alcohol abuse, self-harm only offers a temporary escape from the emotional pain of those with PTSD. Self-harm is a way of avoiding emotional pain by temporarily replacing it with physical pain. Just like substance and alcohol abuse, self-harm causes more problems than it solves for the person suffering from PTSD. Recovery is possible and hope exists! You can recover from your past feelings of trauma by finding more effective coping skills to deal with emotional pain!

Many individuals suffering from the effects of PTSD or other trauma-related disorders seek quick-fix solutions to their emotional pain, such as substance use, alcohol abuse, or self-harm. These behaviors only prolong the healing process and inhibit the person’s ability to truly recover. Many of those dealing with trauma have a difficult time healing due to the desire to avoid dealing with the emotions brought on by the traumatic experience.

If you engage in self-harm or other self-destructive behaviors to cope with trauma, there are better ways to heal! The Guest House helps people like you discover effective coping skills to manage your emotions following a traumatic experience. Other guests staying with us have been in your place before and understand the things you are going through. Call us today at (855) 483-7800 to learn more information on what our program has to offer!