How can I hurt myself? Let me count the ways. But first let me distinguish between hurting myself and abusing myself. Hurting myself – self-harm is a term commonly used for physically abusing oneself by cutting, self inflicting blows, pulling out hair (Trichotillomania) skin or nails, starving or food misuse, extreme piercing, or purposely burning ones’ self. Abusing myself – self-abuse covers the entire spectrum of self-destructive behavior, which includes emotional and psychological abuse and unconsciously or indirectly exposing oneself to physical harm via reckless or dangerous behavior. Addiction is viewed as a symptom rather than a cause of self-abuse, but many addictions (i.e. any kind of substance abuse, unsafe sex and even gambling) can become a reckless behavior that leads to physical harm.

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When people act in ways that seem abusive to themselves, we shame them. We disparage them as weak, selfish, suicidal. Sometimes we even ostracize them. Thus we are further punishing those who are already punishing themselves. But what do we gain from that reaction? Does this stop the self-abusive behavior? Does it make the underlying issues that instigated the self-abuse disappear?

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