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Why Aren’t There More Resources for Adult Self-Injurers?

Even getting adults to commit to group therapy can be a challenge. Adults are burdened with more responsibility than adolescents and may have trouble finding the time and effort to make the commitment for their own healing, even when resources are available.

Why Aren’t There More Resources for Adult Self-Injurers?

By Renée Fabian 03/21/17
Over time, self-injury itself can become a habitual, nearly addictive behavior, and 8.7 percent of self-injurers are also addicts.

Erin Hardy, a Wisconsin-based therapist, found herself in a quandary when an uptick of people who self-injured came to her about five years ago. This was a new area to her practice, so Hardy sought consultation with her colleagues on resources, but they came up empty. An internet search left Hardy with unsatisfactory results.

“All the sudden I had this flood of individuals that were engaging in self-harm,” says Hardy. “There is really nothing [online] about self-harm other than the theme of, ‘Anybody who self-injures has borderline personality disorder,’ and … ‘there’s no cure, nobody can get better.'”

Undeterred, Hardy kept searching until she found S.A.F.E. Alternatives, an organization co-founded by Wendy Lader and Karen Conterio in the mid-1980s dedicated to self-injury recovery with the belief, “people can and do stop injuring with the right kinds of help and support.” Through their S.A.F.E. Focus program, Hardy got the training and materials she needed to lead a dedicated self-injury support group in her city.

Today, a similar internet search for self-harm resources yields information focused on adolescents. As one PsychForums member put it, “I have been online searching for several hours today regarding finding help for self-harm, and I’m 40. I have been seeing that it is mostly in young people, and feeling pretty embarrassed and ashamed that I’m an adult dealing with it. I feel like I should have grown out of this long ago.”

The pervasive idea that self-injury is a behavior relegated to emo teenagers is simply false. Self-injury affects 4 to 5.5 percent of adults, yet the stigma persists, leaving millions of self-injurers to struggle in silence and feel invisible.

Defined as intentionally harming the body without suicidal intent through behaviors such as cutting, burning or hitting oneself, self-injury serves as a maladaptive coping skill to deal with difficult emotions, experiences and feeling states.


What I learnt when I tried to kill myself

It’s all too easy to glamourise suicide once it’s happened. To pack out a funeral ceremony, dripping platitudes, telling everyone you “wish you’d known”. But if the potential suicide victim “fails”?

What I learnt when I tried to kill myself
What do you do when everyone knows what you did?

By Charlotte Dingle

A few weeks ago I joined the same exclusive club as Drew Barrymore, Eminem, Britney Spears and a host of other celebs. Like your average A-list party, there was plenty of booze and a few pills involved. There was a trip to casualty, too – again, not atypical. But this was a party of one. Mired in sadness, devoid of hope, and brooding on a stupid fight with my partner, I sat in my bedroom and necked anti-depressants (oh the irony) like Smarties, all washed down with a tidal wave of whisky. I barely remember what followed immediately afterwards. All I know is that I survived, thanks to the swift actions of said partner.

My friend G (full name withheld as her family still refuses to accept that she committed suicide) did the same thing seven years ago, at exactly the same age I am now. She was smart, vivacious, funny, bloody gorgeous – the last person you’d expect to ever feel unhappy. We’d been giggling over fancy dress plans just the day before it happened. But G died, drunk and emotional after storming out of the pub following an argument with her boyfriend. Later on, he tried to kill himself by starting a fire in his flat. He ended up in a prison psychiatric hospital. It was so, so sad.

Every year in the UK, 5,000 people succeed in committing suicide. As many as 100,000 are estimated to have attempted it. They shoot themselves, they overdose, they slash veins and they inhale gas. Most of the time, the people around them have no idea that this drastic final gesture is on the cards. Because part of the reason that so many take their own lives is the tremendous taboo surrounding depression and suicide. I first broke my silence over mental health issues when I came clean about my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder on this very website. A lot of people warned me against it. “It will affect your whole career,” they said. “Your name will be out there, attached to that.” I won’t lie: I was terrified. But something inside me screamed that I had to write it regardless. That maybe that was the kind of thing my career should actually be about, above all else.

As it turned out, that article has now been shared almost 16,000 times and counting. For something born of such pain, such feelings of inadequacy and shame, reactions to it have made me feel pretty good about myself. But the day after I made my attempt, I was nevertheless terrified when I awoke to a barrage of Facebook message notifications. “Are you OK?” seemed to be the running theme. Filled with creeping dread, I checked out my last status update. Oh fuck. Turns out I’d drunkenly told the world exactly what had happened. As people often do when they + social media with booze and despair.


How Borderline Personality Disorder Put an End to My Party Days (#BPD)

The negative emotions I have are immobilizing. They crash over me like huge waves, knocking the wind out of me and forcing me underwater.

How Borderline Personality Disorder Put an End to My Party Days
August 10, 2015
by Harriet Williamson

In the summer of 2010, just before I turned 19 and in my first year of university, I attempted suicide with a month’s supply of my antidepressants and ended up in intensive care, breathing on a machine. By my second year, my good-time friends had had enough of me. I was no longer invited out, and became very isolated and increasingly unhappy. I got into an abusive relationship and attempted suicide another two times. I was also bulimic—vomiting everything that touched my lips.

During the first year of my undergraduate degree I reduced my calorie intake to 250 a day—about two and a half slices of bread or five medium apples—and started to go slowly insane. I drank, took drugs, and went to clubs with a religious fervor. My body started to cave in. I was starving and my hair started to fall out. My nails went blue. My skin turned to flaking scales. I once ate a burger after a night out and forced myself to run up and down the stairs until I actually passed out to “make up for it.” I went to my campus GP and told him I needed help. At five and a half stone (less than 80 pounds), he said I wasn’t sick enough to warrant eating disorders treatment, and borderline personality disorder (BPD) was never even mentioned.

People couldn’t keep up with my impulsive behavior, the manic phases and the fits of crying. The labels of “drama queen,” “attention seeker,” and “total fucking mess” followed me around like a bad smell. I tried to conceal it, but being called those things hurt. I didn’t know how to explain that all the stuff I was doing was an attempt to manage my out-of-control emotions, because when I’m going through a bad patch it feels like being on a sickening roller coaster—only, I can’t get off.


Your Life: Mental illness should not ‘lurk in the shadows’

Ninety percent of those who die by suicide have a diagnosable, treatable mental disorder. Even though it is a biological brain disorder, mental illness often lurks in the dark as something to be ashamed of.

Your Life: Mental illness should not ‘lurk in the shadows’

Charlotte Lankard: Ninety percent of those who die by suicide have a diagnosable, treatable mental disorder. Even though it is a biological brain disorder, mental illness often lurks in the dark as something to be ashamed of.

By Charlotte Lankard | Published: October 1, 2012

“When someone is diagnosed with cancer, friends and relatives gather around them offering prayer, love and support. When someone is diagnosed or hospitalized with mental illness, no one shows up. When someone attempts suicide, no one comes.”

These words come from a book, “Don’t Let Anyone Know” by Helen Cochran Coffey. Coffey’s daughter, Heather, was a victim of undiagnosed and untreated borderline personality disorder.

Life looked perfect for Heather — beautiful, bright, a mother of two daughters and an excellent employee. But alcohol abuse, erratic behavior and suicide attempts were the norm behind closed doors. When employers discovered mental illness, she was fired.

Her first suicide attempt came at age 15, and there were numerous others until she killed herself at 38.
Continue reading Your Life: Mental illness should not ‘lurk in the shadows’

Listening to Shame

Shame is an unspoken epidemic, the secret behind many forms of broken behavior. Brené Brown, whose earlier talk on vulnerability became a viral hit, explores what can happen when people confront their shame head-on. Her own humor, humanity and vulnerability shine through every word.

Brené Brown studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame.

Demi Moore and BPD

Demi Moore and BPD?

When I read the People Magazine article about Demi Moore, while I was waiting to get a haircut, I thought of Borderline Personality Disorder. I guess I wasn’t the only one. Here is an “open letter to Demi Moore” from Alisa Valdes, the author, about BPD and being lovable.

An Open Letter to Demi Moore
By Alisa Valdes

Dear Demi,

I don’t know you. So I ask you to forgive my false familiarity. We have New Mexico in common, and I know of people who knew you growing up in Roswell. From what I’ve heard, you had a rough start in this world. So I guess I we have that in common, too.

When I heard that you’d been hospitalized after your friend called 911 because you were having seizure-like symptoms, I recognized that, too. When I heard that the symptoms were attributed by medical professionals to stress, I remembered something similar happening to me in the wake of my divorce.

But it was when I saw the quote from you in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar that I really felt my heart lurch with sympathy for you. In that interview, you said the following:

“What scares me is that I’m going to ultimately find out at the end of my life that I’m really not lovable, that I’m not worthy of being loved. That there’s something fundamentally wrong with me…and that I wasn’t wanted here in the first place.”

I am sorry to say I know how that feels, too.

As I said, I don’t know you. I don’t know your heart. But I know enough of your early life, and enough from those tragic, painful words, to suspect you and I have another commonality.

Last year, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. At first, I balked. Like many people, I’d heard terrible things about this mood disorder, which was supposedly popularized by Glen Close’s creepy character in Fatal Attraction. Borderlines were supposed to be among the worst people in the world, without their own identities and completely unhinged. Or at least that’s what I thought. I resisted the diagnosis for a minute, and then agreed to learn about it.


What I learned floored me. Finally, there was an explanation for why I always went back to that lonely place, that conviction that I was unlovable, in moments of pain and crisis—and it was NOT that I was unlovable. And neither are you, Demi. You are lovable. You are amazing. You have accomplished so much. You are so talented, successful, beautiful.

Borderline Personality Disorder is partly biological, in that we are born with a tendency to overreact, emotionally. Lots of writers and actors and musicians have this ability. In my case, my emotional sensitivity has been my greatest gift, and my worst enemy, at the same time. It made me a writer. It also made me difficult.

What pushes people like me into BPD isn’t biology alone. The disorder is triggered, according to the literature, by living through a childhood that is “invalidating.” When my therapist told me this, I asked her what that meant. She said there was a range of experiences that could be invalidating, from obvious neglect and abuse to subtle undermining statements, such as telling a hungry child, “No, you’re not hungry, we just ate.” Anything that invalidates that child’s truth, repeatedly, can lead to this disorder.

What happens, Demi, is that people like us start at an early age to doubt our own perceptions of self. We say we’re hungry, but our parent says we’re not. We must be wrong about ourselves. This thinking progresses to deriving almost our entire sense of self from outside ourselves. It isn’t that the Borderline lacks opinions or identity, it’s that she wants so terribly to win approval and love that she goes along with whatever the people around her say and do.

When you do this, you end up requiring someone else to determine the boundaries within which you believe yourself to exist. Jackie O once said she had no opinions of her own, because her husband’s were good enough for two. What happens to a woman like that when the husband is taken away? She ends up feeling unlovable, as though she doesn’t exist, as though the very foundation of her world has disappeared and taken her with it.
Continue reading Demi Moore and BPD