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The Connection Between Self-Harm and Trauma

a teen girl sits on the floor of her room with her hands to mouth looking at the ground thinking about the connection of self-harm and trauma

Self-harm is a serious issue that can have long-term effects on an individual’s physical and mental health. While many factors can cause it, research has shown that trauma often plays a significant role in the development of self-harm behaviors. Trauma affects our emotions and changes how we think and behave. Untreated trauma may lead to destructive patterns and mental health conditions.

At HillsidesCares, we understand that trauma can have a long-lasting impact on a person’s life, triggering severe emotional and psychological pain that could lead to self-harm behaviors. This is where HillsidesCares’s trauma therapy program can be helpful, providing individuals with the tools necessary to cope with their traumas effectively. Our program’s goal is to help clients develop a strong and healthy sense of self while learning to regulate their emotions under the guidance of professionals. For more information, reach out to our team of experts today at 323.641.4842.

Connection Between Self-Harm and Trauma

Self-harm and trauma often go hand in hand, especially for individuals who have experienced severe physical or emotional trauma in their lives. Trauma can manifest in various ways, ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to anxiety and depression. These conditions can lead to self-harm as a coping mechanism, where the individual intentionally inflicts harm on themselves as a way to alleviate emotional pain or to feel a sense of control.

Numerous studies have shown that those who have experienced trauma, particularly childhood trauma, are at a higher risk for engaging in self-harm behavior. Trauma can have long-term effects on the brain and body, making it more difficult for individuals to regulate their emotions and behaviors. This can lead to a cycle of self-harm and traumatic experiences, where the behavior becomes a maladaptive coping mechanism to deal with the ongoing effects of trauma.

Long-Term Effects of Trauma

While these protective behaviors may provide temporary relief, they can also cause long-term physical and emotional harm and become addictive. Over time, the individual may become caught in a loop of self-harm, where the behavior becomes the primary coping method and can lead to difficulties in functioning and relationships.

Trauma can have long-term effects on an individual, both physiologically and psychologically. Traumatic experiences can lead to physical and mental health issues, substance use, and self-destructive behavior like self-harm. When an individual experiences a traumatic experience, significant brain and nervous system changes are induced.

Trauma can cause an increase in stress hormones such as cortisol, which can affect the immune system and lead to chronic illnesses such as autoimmune disorders. It can also affect the amygdala, which controls the body’s fight or flight response, causing individuals to become hyper-vigilant and reactive to stressors in their environment long after the traumatic experience has passed.

Some of the significant long-term effects of trauma include:

  • Physical symptoms such as chronic pain, dizziness, headaches, and fatigue
  • Emotional disturbances, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and emotional dysregulation
  • Cognitive issues like memory loss or impaired concentration
  • Behavioral changes such as impulsiveness or recklessness
  • Difficulty building healthy relationships with others
  • Poor problem-solving skills
  • Substance use

Psychologically, trauma can significantly impact an individual’s mental health. Individuals who experience trauma may develop depression, anxiety, and PTSD. The emotional pain caused by traumatic experiences can lead to a lack of self-worth, feelings of shame and guilt, and a distorted sense of reality. These negative feelings may lead individuals to engage in self-harm as a coping mechanism to manage their emotional pain.

Contact HillsidesCares for Help Addressing Your Child’s Trauma

In order to break the cycle of self-harm and traumatic experiences, individuals need to seek professional help. Along with a healthy lifestyle, psychotherapy and other evidence-based treatments can help individuals to develop more beneficial coping mechanisms and process unresolved traumatic experiences. With appropriate treatment and support, individuals can learn to regulate their emotions and behaviors in a healthier way to move towards a more fulfilling and satisfying life. To learn more about our trauma therapy program, contact our team of experts today at 323.641.4842.