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Self-Harm and Eating Disorders Signs, Symptoms, Treatment, and Recovery | Alexandria, VA

What is Self-Harm?

Nonsuicidal self-injury disorder, better known as self-harm, is characterized by the purposeful actions of causing physical harm to oneself without the intention of committing suicide. This behavior is more common in teenagers and adolescents and occurs due to severe underlying emotional pain and a lack of healthy coping skills. Self-harm behaviors are coping ways to release emotions related to anger, sadness, neglect, pain and frustration; after the harmful act is completed, the individual experiences shame or guilt resulting in more negative emotions. Individuals who practice it usually have a history of emotional, sexual or physical abuse, neglect, or trauma resulting in feelings of insecurity, excessive worry and extreme anger. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa are strongly associated with it and individuals in the Alexandria, VA with these characteristics should be screened for it and vice versa. It can result in co-occurring disorders such as substance abuse, depression and suicide.

 What are some forms of this condition?

  • Cutting
  • Scratching
  • Burning
  • Carving words or symbols into the skin
  • Preventing wound healing
  • Extreme skin picking
  • Extreme hair pulling
  • Ingesting toxic chemicals
  • Punching or hitting walls to induce pain
  • Biting

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Does my loved one have an eating disorder?
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How do I know if someone I love is practicing self-harm behavior? Seek Treatment at our Alexandria, VA Recovery Center.

If any of the above signs and symptoms occur, it is important to seek help from a therapist trained diagnosis and treating self-harm behavior. In order for an individual to meet our Alexandria, VA Recovery Treatment diagnostic criteria, they must have intentions of harming themselves resulting in physical pain to the body without the intent to commit suicide. The individual must be significantly distressed by their feelings and actions and their specific behavior is not accepting by society. These actions must occur for five days out of the year and the individual must induce it for one of the following reasons:

  • To seek relief from negative feelings or thoughts
  • To resolve an interpersonal conflict
  • To bring about positive feelings

Additionally, the individual must experience one of the following before the self-injury act occurs:

  • Negative feelings and thoughts associated with depression and anxiety
  • Obsessive thoughts about self-injury, which are difficult to resist
  • Frequent urges to induce self-harm

"By far the best treatment I have ever received.  [Center For Discovery] changed my life."

Lacey W.
Discovery Alumni

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Self-Harm?

Signs and symptoms of self-harm include severe scars, wounds and physical injuries; however many individuals will try to conceal these physical signs and therefore this disorder may often go undiagnosed. It is important to recognize and be aware of the emotional and behavioral symptoms associated with this condition and the associated warning signs. The following are signs, symptoms and warning signs of it:

  • Isolation and avoiding social situations
  • Wearing baggy or loose clothes to conceal wounds
  • Finding razors, scissors, lighters or knives in places where they do not belong
  • Multiple cuts, burns or scars on the wrists, arms, legs, hips, or stomach
  • Always making excuses for having cuts, marks or wounds on the body
  • Spending long periods locked in a bedroom or bathroom
  • Uncontrollable emotions such as depression, anger, frustration, and insecurity
  • Eating disorders symptoms such as self-induced purging including vomiting, laxative use, extreme exercise and binging which is defined as eating an extreme amount of food within a two hour period
  • Declining performance in school
  • Use of alcohol and drugs
  • Fresh wounds on the body
  • Bruises
  • Hair loss or bald spots
  • Broken bones
  • Behavioral and emotional instability which includes making rash decisions and extreme impulsive and unpredictable behaviors that may include acting out in sexual ways or violent ways
  • Feelings of guilt, remorse and worthlessness
  • Talking about harming oneself or suicide

Take a tour of our Alexandria, VA Eating Disorder Treatment Centers

Center For Discovery Alexandria, VA specializes in treating eating disorders and the co-occurring conditions that are accompanied with them, with unique treatment programs for every individual to get them on their way to eating disorder recovery.  For more information, resources, or to consult with an eating disorder treatment specialist, call 703.940.1636

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