Help: Self Harm is the Only Thing that Calms Me Down

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Reader’s Question

I have been feeling a lot of stress and depression lately. Inflicting myself with pain is the only thing that will calm me down. I will do or take in anything to make myself unhealthy, even though I know that it is not healthy and that I shouldn’t be doing that. I haven’t been eating properly for about three weeks now. I only eat one meal a day and sometimes none at all for two days. Also I been having thoughts that I do not fear death and that I don’t care when or how I die, I just want everything of me to disappear. Am I going crazy?

Psychologist’s Reply

You are not going crazy, but you are not imagining the severe level of stress and depression either.

Compare this emotional pain to being stung by a bee. When you get stung, you scratch it even though you know better. Scratching it gives you a different pain to think about. It’s distracting and feels like relief, even though you know it will make the healing harder. We have to consciously force ourselves not to scratch because the impulse to scratch is so strong.

It sounds like you are inflicting yourself with pain in order to lessen the emotional strain you’re under. What you are able to articulate is the increasing level of self harm that becomes necessary to dull the other pain. Your risk of suicide is real, whether it is intentional, accidental, or by slowly undermining your health. Your need for help is immediate.

Where I live (in the state of California), we work to provide someone suffering as you are with a combination of treatments: psychiatry, counseling, group work, physical health care and nutrition. I understand that you are not complaining about an eating disorder per se, so not all of those services may be necessary for you. However, if left untreated you could wind up in hospital or worse.

Who can you call to get help? If there is no one, then please get yourself to an urgent care center or hospital. You’ve clearly identified the stress and depression as the root of the other symptoms, but get your physical health checked out first. If the emotional pain continues to be as intolerable as you say, they may prescribe something for you to help with that until you can get more long-term help. A therapist can work with you individually and help you find a program/support group that can augment the individual work.

Your symptoms are not to be taken lightly. Please get to the urgent care center immediately.

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