According to the CDC, 312,000 Americans are admitted into emergency rooms across the country due to self-harm every year. Countless others commit acts of self-harm to varying degrees, not all of them needing admittance to the emergency room, thus resulting in these people going unrecorded in said study. Self-harm often stems from other mental health concerns, like depression. People who commit acts of self-harm are at risk of heavy blood loss, wounds or scars, infection, nerve damage, and broken bones depending on the type of harm being inflicted.
Books for Understanding Self Harm
For some people, self-harm can be a form of addiction, a seeking of release, or a way to take control of seemingly uncontrollable emotions and circumstances in life. As friends and family, identifying the reasons why an individual chooses to engage in self-harm is key to understanding and addressing the needs of a loved one.
1. Understanding and Responding to Self-Harm: The One Stop Guide: Practical Advice for Anybody Affected by Self-Harm
“Self-harm is a sign of distress, and if you ask carefully you can nearly always find the symptoms of that distress, but there is more to it than that… [This chapter] will consider the idea that self-harm isn’t in this sense a sign of distress. Rather it is also the person’s way of dealing with distress.” (p.71)
In Understanding and Responding to Self-Harm: The One Stop Guide, author Allen House lays out the various mental and environmental factors that might lead someone to commit self-harm, but does not neglect the fact that self-harm affects everyone involved, including friends and family.
House provides simple, but honest, tactics and strategies to manage self-harming urges, and gives advice to friends and family about how to address and assist a loved one that has self-harming urges or behaviors. The author does an excellent job explaining the impact of our responses, which responses we should use, and, perhaps most importantly, the responses that we should avoid.
Reviewers have given this book 5-stars, and I would encourage everyone to give it a read to broaden their understanding on a subject that impacts so many.
2. Why Do We Hurt Ourselves? Understanding Self-Harm in Social Life
This is a solid starter guide on the “whys” behind self harm and how to recognize the signs and symptoms. Per the product description, “Self-harm is a practice that people use to self-control and maintain order—to calm down, or to avoid ‘going haywire’ or ‘breaking everything.’ More broadly, through his research, Brossard works to develop a perspective on the contemporary social world at large, exploring quests for self-control in modern Western societies.”
3. Cover Up – Understanding Self Harm
In Cover Up: Understanding Self-Harm, author Joan Freeman attempts to dispel myths and remove stigmas associated with self-harm. A book aimed at guiding parents, teachers, and caretakers in how to address self-harm, and individuals engaged in self-harming behavior, Freeman gives a thorough understanding of why self-harming occurs, and how we can support those in recovery.
4. Safe with Self-Injury: A practical guide to understanding, responding and harm-reduction Paperback
In Safe with Self-Injury, the path of action regarding understanding those that self-harm and how best to treat their needs is clearly laid out. Reviewers state its practicality is especially useful to the layperson. “This book is an essential resource for anyone who has a supporting role or relationship with someone who hurts themself, whether in a professional or informal context.” -Amazon Reviewer
5. Women and Self Harm: Understanding, Coping and Healing from Self-Mutilation
“Most research on self-harm has shown a similar general pattern. However, we have found that a greater proportion of the women who talked to us have attacked parts of their bodies specifically connected to their female identity such as faces, breasts and genitals.”
Authors Smith, Cox, and Saradjian give a unique insight into self-harm, focusing their efforts on identifying why self-harm happens in women, and how to address it. A scholarly-written work, Women and Self-Harm is often cited for its ability to accurately describe factors that influence women to self-harm, how to handle self-harm, and most importantly, how to heal.
YA Books on Self Harm
Teens and young adults dealing with self-harming behaviors may benefit from these books geared toward helping them understand their behaviors and healthy ways to cope.
6. Cutting And Self-Harm (Psychological Disorders)
Cutting and Self-Harm is specially targeted to those pre-teens and young adults that are struggling with harming behaviors. From identifying what self-harm is to the prevention of self-harm, this guide provides a thorough plan on how to approach the situation. Author Heather Barnett Veague breaks down the subject matter, making it digestible and complete with key vocabulary in bold and a glossary and index.
7. Inside a Cutter’s Mind: Understanding and Helping Those Who Self-Injure
Inside a Cutter’s Mind delves deep into the psychology of cutting, the feelings of anger and despair behind it, and the counseling resources that can help. Readers get a view into how cutters use seclusion and privacy to establish routines of cutting, what environmental and physical conditions often accompany self-injury, and why it’s difficult for some cutters to let go of destructive thoughts.
This book does have a strong Christian slant, however, according to reviewers, those from all walks of life have found it extremely helpful.
8. TEEN SELF-HARM: Helping Teenagers Overcome Self-Harming Behaviors by Using Therapeutic Methods
Dr. Albert Smith brings forth this body of work specifically for the teens that are struggling with self-harm. He makes the strong distinction that self-harm is not always related to suicide, but rather, “as a method to cope with stress– hurting themselves is often seen as a way to control their upsetting feelings. Others do so to dissociate from their problems (e.g. to distract themselves from emotional pain).” Written in readable, casual prose, Dr. Smith aims to demystify the practice of self harm and to help the reader implement supportive methods to treat the situation.
9. Freedom from Self-Harm: Overcoming Self-Injury with Skills from DBT and Other Treatments
“This book has been awarded The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies Self-Help Seal of Merit — an award bestowed on outstanding self-help books that are consistent with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) principles and that incorporate scientifically tested strategies for overcoming mental health difficulties. Used alone or in conjunction with therapy, our books offer powerful tools readers can use to jump-start changes in their lives.”
Authors Alexander Chapman and Kim Gratz outline how to use acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to successfully treat those struggling with harmful thoughts and actions. Readers state that the treatments are laid in easy to understand and implement formats.
Workbooks for Dealing With Self Harm
People often get lost in what or how to do things. These workbooks have good advice for dealing with self-harm yourself or for helping someone else.
10. Self Harm Recovery Journal: Beautiful Journal for Self-Harm Recovery with Energy and Mood Trackers, Self Harm Prevention Work Sheets, Quotes, Mindfulness Exercises, Gratitude Prompts and more
Self Harm Recovery Journal is a beautiful companion workbook to help record your recovery and take notes in between therapy sessions. Full of mindful worksheets and exercises, mood trackers, self-harm trigger lists and inspiring quotes, this workbook provides a safe space for the user’s thoughts and feelings
11. ReWrite: The Journey from Self-Harm to Healing
ReWrite: The Journey from Self-Harm to Healing is an extraordinary workbook by author Benjamin Sledge, that aims to rewrite the stigmas associated with self-harm—that people who self-harm or have mental health concerns aren’t crazy! Some of them just think they have found a solution with their harmful behaviors.
The author attempts to avoid overcrowding his audience with medical terminology, and does a magnificent job of placing into layman’s terms the specifics of why self-harm occurs, how to address self-harm, and different aspects that lead and influence someone to engage in self-harm.
Sledge explains why “willpower will not get you to stop,” and goes on to provide “tried-and-true recovery techniques and exercises,” so that you do not go “another day stuck in the clutches of self-harm.”
12. Self-Harm Recovery & Emotional Support Journal
A wonderful journal directed towards those suffering from a myriad of mental health disorders, Self-Harm Recovery & Emotional Support Journal offers a non-judgmental, supportive guideline to support your therapy and journey to self-harm recovery.
The author includes “self-harm prevention mindfulness worksheets and also self-harm relapse recovery worksheets for breaking the cycle of self-ham shame.”
13. Treating Suicidal Clients & Self-Harm Behaviors: Assessments, Worksheets & Guides for Interventions and Long-Term Care
A hands-on guide with targeted treatment for suicidal thoughts and harmful behavior, Dr. Houston shares her expertise in this highly-rated guide to healing. A nice mix of scientific literature, theory, and application, with worksheets and activities, a reader has multiple ways to benefit from this workbook.
Stories About Overcoming Self-Harm
The topic of self harm can feel overwhelming and sometimes hopeless. Tales of survivors and how they made it from the darkness into the light can often provide enough inspiration for those struggling to have hope for the future.
14. Secret Scars: One Woman’s Story of Overcoming Self-Harm
“I retrieved a razor blade from my secret stash in a box under the bed and scored lines across my arms… I watched the blood drip onto the strategically-placed toilet paper, I felt calmer…”
In Secret Scars, Abigail Robson paints a candid picture of what it is like to use self-harm as a form of control. This amazing autobiography gives not advice, but a first-hand account of what it is like to confront the reality of self-harm addiction… and overcome it, one day at a time.
15. Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation
“What does it feel like to cut yourself, deliberately, until you feel pain and start to bleed? Why would you do this? What does the experience of pain do to you, or for you?”
Author Steven Levenkron adds personal narratives in this creative nonfiction work to cast a light upon self-harm, the information explaining why self-harm occurs, and the effects that it has on a person and their friends and family, as well as the medical staff that “stitch the wounds.”
The book is filled with stories: Kessa, Annika, and Dina, among others. Described as a “seminal work on treating self-mutilation,” Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation is a title that will offer clarity and understanding to a subject shrouded in taboo.
Understanding is the first step to recovery, and that is the aim of this book.
16. From Struggle To Victory: My journey of overcoming mental illness, Conversion Disorder, PNES, and self-harm
“If you are struggling with any of the illnesses discussed in this book, reader discretion is advised.”
Lucid and raw, Olivia Lodi does not hold back. This is an autobiography of self-discovery and rehabilitation. Many Americans struggle with mental health on a day-to-day basis, which leads them to retaliate against their depression and loneliness through self-harm and mutilation.
This is Olivia’s story; the author does include a trigger warning, stating that “there are topics in this book that could be triggering for some, so be careful.”
But, “What if there were ways to have victories in the midst of the dark moments? What if there were ways to help others get through those difficult times?” These are the questions Olivia Lodi attempts to answer in this difficult but important work.
17. Screaming in Silence: Suicide, Attempted Suicide and Self-Harm Recovery
Prolific writer Katy Sara Culling introduces her book with a pointed quote from Friedrich Nietzsche:
“The thought of suicide is a powerful solace; by means of it one gets through many a bad night.”
The survivor of 443 suicide attempts since the age of 11, Culling describes her work as a “serious pro-survival, pro-recovery book”, and invites her readers to “Pull up a chair… sit back in bed… and [we will] talk.”
Talking to a Therapist About Self-Harm
While these books are a wonderful first step toward understanding and recovery, they are not a replacement for a therapist’s care and guidance. Finding a therapist that is the perfect fit for you or your loved one can seem daunting, but you can simplify the process by using an online therapist directory, searchable by your location.