How outsiders should react

Self-harm is usually a sign of mental or emotional illness. Outsiders often don't know how to react when they notice frequent injuries on friends or family members. They want to help, but they are afraid of the person's reaction. Here are some tips.

Reasons for self-harm

Self-harm is a way for those affected to release inner pressure or temporarily suppress psychological or emotional problems. Self-harm is typical for people with borderline personality disorder, for example. Continuous conflict situations or experiences of loss, such as the divorce of parents, can also lead to self-harm, especially in young people. According to the health portal "," most people who self-harm are between the ages of 14 and 20, so they are teenagers or young adults. Most of those affected are girls or young women.

Recognizing self-harm disorders

The most common form of self-harm is cutting with knives, razor blades, or even shards of glass. Other affected individuals burn themselves with cigarettes or a hot iron, or pull their hair out. Even extreme nail biting can be considered self-harm. Outsiders often react late because the affected individuals inflict the injuries in places that are covered by clothing, so they remain unnoticed. However, the injuries usually become more intense and widespread over time if the conflict persists and no help is provided. If you notice fresh injuries on someone close to you repeatedly, you should not ignore it but try to help them. However, this must be done delicately.

Do not react with accusations

Parents are usually shocked or affected when they realize that their child is self-harming. However, it is not the right way to react with accusations or threats and simply tell the child to stop. This only puts pressure on the child and gives the impression that they are doing something wrong, while the causes of self-harm remain unclear. Sooner or later, the self-harming behavior will recur. "Parents should show that they take their child seriously, care about them, and want to help," said Prof. Jörg Fegert, head of the German Society for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (DGKJP), in a report by the "Rheinische Post." This is also how you should react if you notice that someone in your circle of friends is self-harming.