Mental Space: The Addiction

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Amber Gauss ('22) looks out a window at Winan's Chocolate & Coffees on Jan 13, 2019. Gauss is an Psychology and Russian double major at Wittenberg University. (Trent Sprague/The Wittenberg Torch)

Addiction is a mental illness. It can also be genetic. Addiction is not a choice, but smoking for the first time or getting drunk for the first time is a choice. Addiction comes in many forms, and some are less expected than others. But I think it’s important to stress that addiction can start at any age, especially in college where we’re all stressed.

As humans, we are predisposed to addiction. Most people are addicted to drugs, alcohol, or caffeine, but in all honesty, it’s possible to become addicted to anything. You can become addicted to love or to a person. But the one addiction that no one seems to expect is self-harm.

People who deal with severe mental illness- typically depression, bipolar disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder- have a tendency to self-harm. And there’s such a stigma around it that causes neurotypical people to view them as “attention seeking.” But in reality, they’re just doing what they need to in order to deal with stress or to feel something.

What neurotypical people don’t realize, though, is that after the first time, these people become addicted to the release. The need to feel something or to release extreme stress is real, it can become overwhelming and it’s not always something that can be dealt with by taking medication for their illness. The people who self-harm are addicts, and they need to be looked at as such.

In a conversation with my personal counselor, in which I brought up a recent relapse in self-harm, she told me that self-harm is an addiction. There are many other phrases that mean self-harm, such as self-mutilation, self-abuse, self-injury, and engaging in self-injurious behavior.

According to Safe Harbor Home, “Self-harm such as cutting often begins in early adolescence. Teenage or younger girls are most susceptible to cutting, though older women and males are also treated for self-harm practices.

The cuts a person makes on the body are often small, straight lines that are not very deep. Some people who cut to self-harm carve words instead of lines that often spell out terms that are self-derogatory, such as “fat” or “stupid.”

Cutting tends to escalate, requiring more cuts, done more often in order to make the person experience the same feelings of relief or calm. This is similar to people who are addicted to substances needing increased dosages to achieve the same high.

However, this same source says that there are other forms of self-harm, such as head banging, burning oneself, and pulling out hair. These are only a few of the many types of self-harm. It is important to know that self-harm may also be considered to be a part of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), as self-harming actions are typically done as a compulsive action and do not mean that the person harming themself is trying to kill themself.

Although self-harm may escalate, it is not always an indication of suicide. It is most often a cry for help, but not attention seeking. As someone who has struggled with this, I can attest that it is an unhealthy way to release stress, but it can be affective. However, I do not recommend self-harm to anyone as it can become dangerous and isn’t healthy at all.

If you or someone you know is struggling with self-harm or thoughts of self-harm, please contact the Tiger Counseling Center at: (937) 327-7946 or email counseling@wittenberg.edu. You can also call (937) 399-9500, which is the phone number for Mental Health Services of Clark County. There is also Talk One-2-One which is a 24 hour service that can be reached at (800) 756-3124.

Source: https://safeharborhouse.com/what-we-treat/co-occurring-disorders/self-harm/

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