Living with Self-Harm Scars
How to Cope with Reminders of the Past
Self-harm scars can be a painful reminder of your mental struggles. For many, it’s something embarrassing that they must hide. However, you may not realize that embracing those scars is part of the healing process.
If you have self-harmed in the past or continue to do so, you may have scars on your body. It can be difficult living with those scars, even if you’ve fully recovered and stopped harming yourself. You may not feel comfortable exposing your scars in public or even to people close to you. Similarly, it can make being intimate with romantic partners difficult.
This article discusses how to embrace self-harm scars from the past and lists some ways you can get rid of them should you choose to.
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Self-harm can be inflicted in many ways. Some common ways people inflict self-harm include cutting, burning, scratching, and hitting. Physical self-harm often leads to pain and, in worse cases, infections. It also leaves behind scars on the skin.
Self-harm can also be inflicted internally, for instance, by consuming too much alcohol on purpose.
To most people, self-harm may seem counter-intuitive. However, it’s a coping mechanism for individuals with mental or behavioral issues.
People with scabs or scars from self-harm often hide it from others or present it as an accident. This is because of the social stigma of self-harm.
Research shows that self-harm is more common in teens than adults, and among teens, it’s more common in girls. Adults with a history of self-harm or those with mental illnesses may also deliberately hurt themselves.
Self-harming behavior can be dangerous and lead to hospitalization. It should be treated immediately with the help of therapy and medication as per the symptoms and underlying causes.
Common Reasons for Self-Harm
In most cases, self-harm is a way to cope with feelings. For some individuals, physical pain is a way to distract themselves from emotional pain. It’s a way to relieve negative feelings, such as guilt, shame, or anger.
Self-harm is often a repercussion of trauma, including early childhood trauma.
People with low self-esteem may deliberately hurt themselves because they hate how they look or feel.
While this type of behavior doesn’t always indicate the presence of a mental illness, it can be a symptom of various conditions, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, borderline personality disorder, gender dysphoria, post-traumatic stress disorder, and dissociative disorders.
A 2014 study also identified chronic physical illnesses as a risk factor for self-harm.
Dealing with Self-Harm Scars
Therapy is the most effective treatment choice for treating self-harm tendencies. Whether it’s a response to trauma or a symptom of an underlying mental condition, psychotherapy techniques can help restructure thoughts of self-injury and empower patients with healthy coping mechanisms. There’s also evidence that psychosocial treatments involving family can benefit teens with self-harm tendencies.
While you may have worked on your problems through therapy, you may still have scars left behind. And coming to terms with those terms is typically the next step of the healing process.
Understandably, you may have reservations about your scars. You may feel ashamed of them or fear that others may judge you. Or you may not like them because they remind you of a time of pain and suffering.
Dealing with self-harm scars can be difficult even when you’ve overcome your tendencies. However, it’s possible to live a healthy and happy life even with those scars on your body. The first step is acceptance.
It can be hard looking at the scars every day, as it may remind you of the difficult times you’ve experienced. However, what’s even more important is to remind yourself that you’ve overcome those difficulties. Those are scars of the past, and they don’t define your present.
You must remember that you’ve worked on yourself and can healthily cope with anxiety, stress, and other negative emotions. You may have cut or burned yourself in the past, but today, you’re a strong individual. If anything, those scars are a sign of you overcoming difficulties.
Just like therapy helps you change your perspective and behavior, it can also help you accept and embrace the scars left behind. Talking to a professional about your thoughts and concerns about your self-harm scars can provide relief. A therapist can help you see those scars in a different light and find the strength to be more comfortable with them.
It’s equally important to ensure you don’t let those negative thoughts that push you to harm yourself influence you again. During times of hardship, seeing the self-harm scars may instigate the idea of hurting yourself again. However, you can use the coping techniques you’ve learned in therapy to change your perspective.
Create a network of support to help yourself in difficult times. Your therapist, family, and friends can help you deal with negative emotions and provide the support you need.
Exposing Self-Harm Scars Is Your Choice
Remember that you choose whether you want to hide your self-harm scars. If you’ve accepted them internally, you can choose whether you want to show them to others.
You can embrace them and don’t use clothing to hide them. At the same time, if you feel more comfortable and secure covering them in public, you should do so. It’s understandable if you’ve come to a point where you’re comfortable with them but don’t want to expose them in public.
How to Get Rid of Self-Harm Scars?
You may find more relief by getting rid of the scars. While you can accept and live with them, there are ways to eliminate self-harm scars permanently. If you believe that removing your self-harm scars can help you move on, the following options can work:
Many topical creams and serums are specifically designed to reduce the appearance of scars. While these products may not completely eliminate the scar, the creams can lighten and make them less noticeable.
Products like Mederma can work on both old and new scars. However, you must be patient and use the cream or gel consistently. It can take weeks or even months to show results.
You should consult a dermatologist before using any topical cream or gel for scars. They can recommend the best product and ingredients according to your skin type and scar severity.
Thanks to advancements in cosmetology, various surgical procedures exist that remove or lighten scars.
For instance, dermabrasion removes scars by peeling the outer layer of the skin. As the new layer forms, the scar appearance diminishes.
Similarly, laser scar removal (laser resurfaces) uses laser technology to induce the formation of elastin and collagen, the two proteins found in the skin.
Surgical treatments are better suited for deeper scars. Nevertheless, consulting a medical expert before getting any surgical procedure for removing self-harm scars is highly recommended.
Many prefer natural ingredients over chemicals or surgical procedures, which are much safer. Natural remedies take time but typically don’t have any side effects.
Some well-known natural remedies for lightening scars include lemon juice, turmeric powder, aloe vera, and coconut oil.
Even with natural substances, caution is advised. You should apply some on a little area to test and only proceed if you don’t get a bad reaction.
If you just want to hide your self-harm scars temporarily, you can use makeup products. Concealers that blend in with your skin tone can cover the scar like it was never there. If you’re using concealer for scars on your arms or legs, choose one that’s waterproof so sweat or moisture doesn’t remove it.
You can consult a dermatologist or makeup expert for recommendations on products suitable for hiding scars.
Another permanent solution for getting rid of self-harm scars is tattooing. However, you must be extra cautious when using ink on a scarred skin area. It’s best to work with a tattoo artist specializing in coverup tattoos.
Remember that tattoos are also permanent, and removing them is very expensive. So take the time to deliberate if you want to cover your scar with a tattoo, ideally something meaningful to you.
Embracing the Scars (In Your Own Way)
Self-harm scars can be challenging, as they often serve as a painful reminder of your weaker moments.
First and foremost, it’s necessary to get treatment for self-harming behavior. Once you’ve taken control of your thinking and behavior, you can work on accepting your scars. Psychotherapy can be your aid throughout this process, helping you embrace the scars and see them differently.
Embracing the scars of self-harm from your past doesn’t mean you have to show them to people or continue to live with them. Many options are available if you want to hide or permanently get rid of them.
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