The biggest misconception is that self-injury is an attempt to commit suicide. The person in question may feel so bad that he has had suicidal thoughts, but generally the two are unrelated. In most cases, the act of self-injury is an attempt to cope with those intense feelings, not die.
Here are the warning signs of self-injury:
Compulsive need to injure oneself by cutting, burning, hitting,
scratching, or pulling hair
Re-injuring old wounds so they don’t heal
Scarring, usually on arms, wrists, legs, abdomen, head, or chest
Attempts to hide arms or other body parts where injury occurred
Hoarding of sharp objects like razors
Person experiences a high from doing it
Consuming thoughts of self-injury, or the behavior interrupts normal daily functioning
In most cases, there is no intention of killing oneself, only to cope with or release intense feelings of pain
Usually self-injures when alone
If you experience any of these symptoms, you know that the behavior can feel all-consuming. You also need to know that there are people who want to support you in finding healthier ways of coping.
If you have a friend or roommate who is a self-injurer, it can be frightening and disturbing to be around this behavior. As difficult as it may be, do not attempt to stop or control someone’s self-injury. You are not responsible for her behavior, and by interfering with her way of coping, you could do more harm than good. Trying to hide or take away self-injury tools, giving ultimatums, or “guilt tripping” your roommate into stopping only encourages more self-hatred and more self-injury. Instead, support your roommate by helping her express feelings and offering to listen without judgment.