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How can I hurt myself?  Let me count the ways.  But first let me distinguish between hurting myself and abusing myself.  Hurting myself – self-harm is a term commonly used for physically abusing oneself by cutting, self inflicting blows, pulling out hair (Trichotillomania) skin or nails, starving or food misuse, extreme piercing, or purposely burning ones’ self.  Abusing myself – of covers the entire spectrum of self-destructive behavior, which includes emotional and psychological abuse and unconsciously or indirectly exposing oneself to physical harm via reckless or dangerous behavior.  Addiction is viewed as a symptom rather than a cause of self-abuse, but many addictions (i.e. any kind of substance abuse, unsafe sex and even gambling) can become a reckless behavior that leads to physical harm.



When people act in ways that seem abusive to themselves, we shame them.  We disparage them as weak, selfish, suicidal.  Sometimes we even ostracize them.  Thus we are further punishing those who are already punishing themselves.  But what do we gain from that reaction?  Does this stop the self-abusive behavior?  Does it make the underlying issues that instigated the self-abuse disappear?


Self-abuse is an acting out of negative emotions – but it is not about wanting to die or about wanting to hurt others.  It is about trying to cope, trying to live.  Why do people act out in this manner?  It’s because the self-abuse is a recreation of abusive situations from the past that shaped these people.  The feeling of being abused is familiar and connotes a way of communicating, because the people who abused them originally were probably people that either loved and took care of them or were supposed to love and take care of them.  Hence, self-abusive behavior now as an adult becomes a way of them taking care of themselves.