n African Journal of Psychiatry - The mystery and paradox of self-injury : patients as partners - brought to you by The South African Depression and Anxiety Group

Volume 15, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1994-8220



The conundrum of self-injury is that it is simultaneously seen as self-defeating and self-destructive, yet paradoxically also cited as life-sustaining, soothing and a coping mechanism in times of emotional crises. However, despite the progress and research to date, self-injury still remains a highly stigmatised and misunderstood phenomenon and continues to evoke negative attitudes, fear and repugnance in society. This is understandable, as self-injurious behaviours challenge our most basic human drives of self-preservation and self-nurturance, and seem beyond human logic. Self-injury is often shrouded in secrecy, addressed in a simplistic or sensationalistic manner, confused with suicide, and it evokes fear, inadequacy and incompetence. The first step toward coping with self-injury is the awareness that self-injurious behaviours are far more prevalent than society acknowledges. An awareness of the dynamics and prevalence of the behaviour is essential to promote understanding and develop the skills to treat individuals who self-injure.

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