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People who are in great emotional pain may turn to self-abuse or self-destructive behaviors. In the aftermath of serious trauma or in the presence of significant shame or hopelessness, self-abuse can seem like a way to lessen the emotional ache.

Similarly, some people in great emotional pain may turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate in hopes of easing the emotional pain. Does that mean that substance abuse and addiction is a type of self-harm?

Is Substance Abuse a Form of Self-Harm?

Although the systematic abuse and misuse of illicit drugs are incredibly detrimental to the abuser, addiction is technically not considered what is referred to as deliberate self-harm. Self-harm or self-abuse is defined as the deliberate infliction of damage or alteration to oneself without suicidal intent. Some common methods of self-harm include cutting, picking the skin, pulling hair, burning, and hitting. These acts are done without the intent of suicide; rather, they are done to give a physical manifestation to the internal mental and emotional pain.

Just because drug addiction is not considered self-harm does not mean that there is not a strong connection between the two, however. Nonsuicidal self-injury is an unhealthy manner to cope with deep psychological distress, such as a mental health disorder. Addiction is another leading coping mechanism for those struggling with mental distress.

The solid relationship between self-harm and drug abuse does not end with a commonality through coping. One study found a correlation between drug misuse and odds of self-harm in teens. Another study conducted over a 14-year period found more evidence supporting the correlation between drug misuse and deliberate self-harm in patients.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Self-Harm and Addiction

When people are in pain, they look to whatever means necessary to sooth that pain. Mental health disorders and psychological pain trigger devastating symptoms to the sufferer, sometimes without any physical evidence. This can make the mental illness isolating and hopeless, leading to a sense of desperation for help coupled with feeling too stigmatized to reach out for help. The vicious cycle of self-medicating and coping can spiral out of control rapidly. Both drug abuse and self-harm need to be treated by addressing the underlying mental issues to regain true health.

There is a place to find treatment for both behaviors. Many treatment centers are equipped with experts in the mental health field to provide cognitive behavioral therapy, which is recommended as a treatment for the co-occurrence of self-harm and drug abuse. Drug and alcohol rehab programs also provide individual and group therapies which can target issues relating to both addiction and self-harm.

If you or any of your loved ones struggle with mental distress or psychological pain along with substance abuse, do not wait another day to seek help. There is qualified help available to you close to home through the expertise of professional drug and alcohol rehab facilities. The time is now to contact us and break the harmful cycle of substance abuse and self-harm.