Self-harming: A rising phenomenon, say experts

Self-harm could be physical, emotional or addictive in the sense that you can't get out of those situations. It’s a manifestation of some trauma in the childhood or any upheaval in the childhood and is a rising phenomenon, according to experts. It needs a proper guidance. So seek help say experts as they talk about pain addiction- a usual phenomenon in this unusual world


Lasya Shetty (name changed) is a common 16 years old with a multitude of unusual habits.  Ever since she was a child, she would get angry quickly. And as she would get angry or frustrated, she would bang her head against the wall. “She didn’t need to see the blood. She just wanted to go through pain. It was only after she repeatedly started cutting her wrists did her parents notice that something was unusually wrong,” said Dr Avinash DeSousa, co-founder of De Sousa Foundation, Mumbai.

And indeed, life’s full of unexpected people. The Shetty’s came to Dr DeSousa with a worrying face.

“In our daily practice, we see a lot of such people. We get at least one patient a month with this problem. Generally, it’s a manifestation of some trauma in the childhood or any upheaval in the childhood. Lasya had a history of child sexual abuse. Pain addiction could be quite risky. However, the idea of pain addiction is not to kill oneself but rather, injure oneself. It gives them a high to inflict pain. In this case, we have started with her treatment and she’s getting much better,” added Dr DeSousa.

Similar to this pain addiction is emotional self-harm. It’s the case where one gets addicted to certain negative feeling.

Let’s take the case of Sheetal Pandey (name changed). For a 45 year old self independent woman, nobody would expect her kind of trauma. She has been married for more than 25 years. However, she knows that her husband has been in more than 14 affairs in this span. “She knew exactly what was right for her when she came to us but she is so addicted to the kind of negativity there, that she doesn’t want to stay away from him,” said Havovi Hyderabadwalla, a clinical as well as forensic psychologist, who is also co-founder of Mind Mandala.

‘We are familiar with physical self-harming. Emotional self-harm is similar where individuals tend to find themselves addicted to certain negative feelings and cannot remove themselves from certain life situations or find themselves falling into similar issues over and over again. Professionals tend to understand these as negative scripts which need to be worked on with the help of therapy to help an individual rewire their system in order to help them function in a happier and healthier manner,” she added.