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How Self-Harm Affects an Entire Family

Question:

How does self-harm affect family members?

Answer:

When one family member is suffering, the entire family is suffering. If one person is hurting, it affects everyone on a personal and individual level. Self-harming varies, and people engage in this type of coping skill for different reasons. For some, it's a way to release emotions; for others, self-harm is done with the intention of committing suicide. It's important to figure out why the individual is doing this.

Each family member will have a different reaction to the individual based on his or her personality. Common feelings that result from this type of situation include anger, guilt, shame and sadness.

Some people get angry with people who self-harm because they don't understand why they can't stop doing it. For someone who has learned how to cope with her feelings, it's hard to understand how an individual is not able to do the same.

Some family members feel guilty that they are not able to prevent this from happening. This is an irrational belief because we can only control ourselves. We cannot control the behaviors of others. Self-harming is a choice, and only the individual engaging in it will be able to make that decision for himself. 

Some family members are ashamed that someone in their family has decided to cope this way. These family members may minimize the problem. They might try to ignore the fact that something like this is happening in their family because they might view it as a sign of weakness.  Others are sad that this is happening.

In actuality, a lot of individuals who self-harm are trying to reach out for help. If someone is self-harming, it's important that he or she seeks help immediately since this behavior can become addictive and hard to break. Individual therapy, along with family therapy, can help create a supportive environment. It can be a signal to family members that something is wrong, and can help bring them together for the greater good of the person who is suffering or depressed.
 

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