An eating disorder is a very serious illness that also happens to have one of the highest mortality rates of any mental disorder. An eating disorder can lead to death in a number of ways, including through damage to physical health or as the result of an associated mental condition.
Suicide rates are very high among those who suffer from eating disorders, as well as self harming behaviors. The behaviors associated with eating disorders, such as starvation, binging and purging, using laxatives, and others, are considered self harming acts in themselves.
The types of self injury that are commonly found among those with eating disorders includes acts such as cutting, burning, or other types of self inflicted injury to the skin. These acts aren't necessarily considered a sign of suicidal tendencies, but they do signal deep emotional distress that cannot be ignored.
A person who self harms will often suffer from depression, anxiety, or obsessive compulsive disorder, and will even plan out their acts. Often times they will have a set of preferred tools used to inflict the injuries that become part of a ritual that can occur daily.
What are the causes of self harm?
Many of the same risk factors found among those with eating disorders are also found among people who practice self harm. Those who practice binging and purging are at the highest risk of also inflicting injuries on themselves.
Some say the root of the problem comes from an inability to express and cope with negative emotions. This could be why depression, OCD, low self esteem, and impulsive behaviors are so common among those with eating disorders.
There is also a link between self harm and trauma, especially emotional, physical, or sexual abuse as well as addiction. This link is also strong among the more severe cases of eating disorders. Self harm is most commonly found among teenage and adolescent females who have eating disorders.
Why would a person want to injure themselves?
This the question that gets asked the most by family members, friends, and others who know someone that practices self harming behaviors. The behavior seems very odd to an outsider who can't comprehend the intentions of someone who would purposely cut, scratch, or burn themselves.
It's important to know that the behavior is a way of dealing with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anger, shame, and loneliness that become overwhelming and too much for the person to bear. Strangely enough, practicing self harm provides a temporary sort of relief from emotional distress. It has been described as a way to express, block out, escape from, or numb the mental pain being experienced.
Some describe it as a method used to punish themselves, while others unconsciously perform the behavior to display their mental pain and show others how much they are suffering. Once someone begins making self inflicted injury a habit, it can become quite difficult to stop.
In much the same way eating disorder behaviors become hard to break, self harm becomes the go to method for coping with emotional pain. A person can even find that they have become addicted to the feeling of calmness and numbness that follows a self inflicted injury.
It's imperative that a person who has an eating disorder gets help. If self harming behaviors are also present, they must also be addressed during treatment. There are many effective therapies for these disorders that help with regulating emotions and developing healthy coping skills. Be sure to work with a therapist who has experience and training in both eating disorders and self harm.
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