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Are Self-Harm and Substance Abuse Related?

John Templeton Jr. - May 19, 2021

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A coping skill is a tool you use to help you overcome stressful situations that are causing you to experience intense feelings. If you had a bad day at work, you might try going to the gym right after work to take your mind off it. However, not every coping skill is inherently healthy by nature. In fact, a recent study showed that 17% of people in the country will practice self-harm at some point in their lifetime.

Another well-known coping skill that has severe negative effects on your well-being is abusing drugs and alcohol. Similar to self-harm practices like cutting, substance abuse can provide a short-term escape, but there’s a high cost that comes with that behavior down the line. Since self-harm and substance abuse are both coping skills, there’s a link between these behaviors that isn’t often talked about. Let’s explore the link between self-harm and substance abuse together.

What Is Self-Harm?

At its core level, self-harm is a way to respond to emotional or psychological pain. When the stress of a situation becomes too much for you to handle, cutting is a way to bring yourself back to the present moment. Your attention is shifted from your anxiety and stress to a wound that you need to take care of. However, self-harm is a very dangerous practice, especially if the behavior escalates.

It’s important to note that self-harm is not a mental health condition by itself. Self-harm is a behavior that often develops when a mental health condition like an anxiety disorder or past trauma becomes too overwhelming for you to handle. Without addressing the underlying cause, self-harm can evolve into a cycle where your brain convinces you that this behavior is required to resolve your feelings.

The Link Between Self-Harm and Substance Abuse

The connection between self-harm and substance abuse is that both behaviors stem from a desire to release the pressure from emotional or psychological distress. These behaviors are ways to self-medicate and can become addictive when left unchecked. Since the motivation for these behaviors are so similar, it’s not uncommon for both to present.

If you’re struggling with substance abuse and self-harm, the risk involved with both behaviors increases dramatically. When you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol, your feelings of pain can be dulled, and you’ll lose precision in your fine motor skills. If you engage in self-harm, you’re running a high risk of doing more severe physical trauma to your body than you originally intended.

The cause-and-effect relationship between self-harm and substance abuse works the other way as well. If you’re engaging in self-harm, the pain involved has the potential to make you reconsider. As we mentioned above, substance abuse can numb your pain, making it easier to rationalize your self-harm behavior.

Finding Help for Substance Abuse and Self-Harm

If you’re struggling with self-harm and substance abuse, it’s important to find professional support as soon as possible. Self-harm is often a symptom of an underlying mental health condition, which needs to be identified and addressed before lasting recovery can be reached. One of the main benefits of dual diagnosis treatment is how it can help you learn healthy coping skills moving forward.

We know the idea of uncovering a mental health condition or past trauma is frightening. However, self-harm and substance abuse are not sustainable ways to cope. Addiction treatment centers like Footprints Beachside Recovery can offer dual diagnosis treatment. That way, your self-harming behaviors and substance abuse can be addressed at the same time, so you can reclaim a sense of purpose in your life.

Discover Premier Dual Diagnosis Treatment in Florida

Footprints Beachside Recovery is a family-run dual diagnosis treatment center in Florida that offers a holistic and personalized approach to recovery. On the scenic beaches of Treasure Island, you’ll be given a peaceful environment to heal your mind, body, and spirit from self-harm and substance abuse.

Within the first 24 hours of your stay with us, we’ll evaluate your current state, so we can personalize our treatment to your unique challenges. While staying at our luxury facilities, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you’re receiving the right treatment for the right issue. Contact our admissions team today to start your journey toward lasting recovery.

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