Mental health and self-harm are very important topics to discuss. March is Self-Harm Awareness Month. Dr. Christopher Fichtner, Clinical Professor, and Interim Chair at the UCR Health at Citrus Tower debunked common misconceptions individuals have regarding self-harm and mental health. Dr. Yamaguchi, Health Sciences Assistant Clinical Professor, at the UCR Health Department of Psychiatry and Neuroscience also shared insight into self-harm awareness.
Common Misconceptions Debunked
Myth: Individuals who self-harm are trying to kill themselves.
Fact: Individuals who self-harm are not typically trying to kill themselves. They may be trying to distract themselves from painful feelings, or they may be punishing themselves.
Myth: Individuals who self-harm are making up stories and none of it is real.
Fact: Those who self-harm often have a history of childhood sexual or physical abuse, emotional neglect, or bonds with caregivers that were unstable or insecure. Self-harm may at times be an attempt to neutralize intrusive memories or negative feelings of a depressive or angry nature, and may reflect an underlying posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Myth: Individuals who self-harm attention-seeking.
Fact: Some individuals may self-harm in response to dissociative symptoms such as feeling numb or as if having an out-of-body experience, and may be an attempt to “feel something”.
Myth: Individuals can stop self-harming at any time, they’re not trying hard enough to stop.
Fact: It can be difficult to quit self-harming. Many reasons can contribute to this, including the shame that some individuals who self-harm feel. This shame can then contribute to resisting sources of help.
Myth: When you overcome self-harm, you can never relapse.
Fact: Individuals can relapse, especially when facing new or recurrent stressors. Though relapses are natural, it can feel like defeat.
Dr. Fichtner also shared alternatives to self-harming behavior. These include Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), as well as Psychotherapy. Other alternatives include medication, though no medication is researched and approved specifically for the indication of self-harming behavior.
Dr. Yamaguchi addresses that it is important to acknowledge the reasons why individuals may self-harm and to be there for those individuals who may feel alone in their recovery journey.
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About UCR Health
UCR Health is comprised of a team of physicians, specialists, and healthcare professionals dedicated to improving people’s health. With five medical offices located throughout Inland Empire and Coachella Valley, UCR Health is growing to meet the healthcare needs of the region, bringing innovative, culturally sensitive medical care to the community. Established alongside the School of Medicine at the University of California, Riverside, UCR Health’s patient-centered primary care and specialty services deliver university-based healthcare excellence and innovation to all communities.