Relationship between Self-Injury and Depression

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by Natasha Tracy

Self-Injury and depression go hand-in-hand. Self-injury is known by many names, including self-harm, self-mutilation and self-abuse. It may be referred to by specific ways of self-harm, such as cutting, burning, or banging.

Self-Injury transcends gender, age, religion, educational and income level. It may be accompanied by depression, and/or a range of psychiatric problems such as bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, addictions, eating disorders or psychotic disorders. The longer the self-harm and depression goes unrecognized and untreated, the more disruptive it is to the sufferer's life and relationships and the more treatment resistant it may become.

Can Self-Injury Lead to Suicide?

Because self-harm (also known as self-injury or self-mutilation) can involve physical injury (such as in the case of self-injury cutting), it can seem like self-harm and suicide are directly related. It's normal to think that cutting one's wrist, in the case of self-harm, may be a suicidal gesture; indicating that the person wishes to cut their wrist to die.

However, this is typically not the case. In fact, most people who practice self-injury don't intend to kill themselves and may even see self-injury as a way of avoiding suicide.

The Relationship Between Self-Harm and Suicide

Self-harm that is not undertaken with the aim of committing suicide is called non-suicidal self-injury and most self-harm falls into this category. People who practice non-suicidal self-injury do so to deal with overwhelming emotions or to feel emotion when none exists. These self provide additional insight into that. And while many people who self-mutilate consider suicide, the act of self-mutilation itself, is not generally a suicidal act.

A minority of people will practice self-harm with suicidal intent, however, so the specific relationship between self-harm and suicide is unclear. And while the act of self-harm has not been shown to lead to suicide, it is understood that the pain that causes people to self-harm may also drive a person to suicide. This is seen in the following statistics about individuals with a history of non-suicidal self-injury as compared to those without a history of self-harm:

  • They were over nine times more likely to report suicide attempts
  • They were seven times more likely to report a suicidal gesture
  • They were six times more likely to report a suicide plan

Because of these numbers, any act of self-harm should be taken seriously and can alert others to significant emotional distress. It's important to get professional help for self-injury, as a professional is more likely to be able to assess the likelihood of suicide in a person that self-harms. This is critical, as the treatment for non-suicidal self-injury and a suicide attempt are quite different.

Nevertheless, it's important to remember that the majority of people who self-mutilate (60%) report not considering suicide.


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The Have I Got A Problem website is a free online resource to help people better understand any issues or concerns they may have about mental health or addiction. The website includes resources specifically focused to; general Mental Health, Depression, Stress, Anxiety, Insecurities, Self-harm Schizophrenia, Bipolar, Anger Management, Eating Disorders, Coping, general Addiction, Alcohol, Smoking, Gambling, Drugs, Cocaine, Heroin, Marijuana (Cannabis) Ecstasy, PCP, Mephedrone, Ketamine & Crystal Meth.

The site was created to give the public information to help them understand mental health and addiction issues and to assist people in making better informed decisions about their life and personal choices.

www.haveigotaproblem.com was created and is run by 'Advising Communities’, which is a UK registered charity (Charity No. 1061055)

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