Self-Harm VS Suicide: What’s the Difference? Guest Post by Dolly Santos



Self-Harm VS Suicide: What’s the Difference?


Image via Pixabay by Matlachu

Many people equate self-harm to suicidal thoughts. While people who self-harm can suffer from suicidal thoughts, most people who self-harm are not actually at as high of risk for suicide. Still, if you are struggling with self-harm and think you may be at risk for suicide, you should take this seriously.

Of course, some people who engage in self-harming behaviors will attempt suicide. But in actuality, these are two different issues that require different approaches to treatment and recovery. Here are some of the differences between suicidal thoughts and self-harm and what to do if you are struggling with either.

Self-Harm is a Coping Strategy

Though the act of self-harming (particularly cutting) can seem like a suicide attempt, it is actually used as a coping mechanism. The self-harm can work to either numb or reinvigorate a person struggling with depression. People who want to end their lives do not typically work to make life more bearable. Instead, they put effort into planning the end of their lives. Rather than trying to end their lives, self-harmers are more often trying to save their lives.

This is not to say cutting is a good thing, nor is any other form of self-harm. However, severe depression culminating in suicidal ideation or, worse, a suicide attempt, is often much more complex to treat. If you deal with any of these things, you should seek counseling.

Self-Harm Can Become an Addiction

People who struggle with addiction are more at-risk for suicide. Alcohol and drugs will lower the user’s inhibitions, resulting in amplified risk-taking behavior. If a depressed person is using alcohol to dull their symptoms, they become much more likely to follow through with suicidal thoughts.

Self-harm can also become an addiction. The rush of endorphins that comes with injury is just as addictive as a rush that would come with drug use. However, self-harm does not impede a person’s ability to make rational decisions. It can, however, cause unintentional suicide if the level of harm rises to dangerous levels. The addiction to self-harm can also lead to addiction to substances, ultimately exacerbating the risk of suicide.

Suicidal People Often Reach Out

Though some people who commit suicide do so without warning, others may reach out in some subtle – or even obvious – manner. They might visibly increase their consumption of alcohol, talk about death, or flaunt risk-taking behaviors. These are cries for help, giving loved ones a chance to intervene and get help.

Self-harm is more often a private matter, concealed by the person as a result of shame. It is noticeable if you know what to look for: Long sleeves regardless of season, long periods of seclusion, or frequent, visible wounds.

If you self-harm, you may not necessarily be at-risk for suicide, but you should absolutely seek help to start the road to recovery and begin adopting healthier coping mechanisms. Self-harming, left untreated, can lead to more dire consequences. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you should also get help immediately. Though things can feel hopeless, like you will never live a full and happy life, you may be surprised by how quickly a good therapist can help.

Written by Dolly Santos of DollyMath

email me at:

Please call the elite team at The Addictions Coach if you or a loved one need help!  1.800.706.0318

We are here for you!