Castlewood Eating Disorder Treatment Center Blog

Eating Disorders and Self-Harm

Eating disorders often present with co-occurring conditions—one of the most common of which is self-harm. Self-harm is characterized as the deliberate injury of the body, and may manifest as cutting, burning, hair pulling, or even overdosing on medications or elicit drugs. Contrary to popular myth, self-harm is not a “cry for attention.” Often, self-harm is secret and private. Why does self-harm so often co-occur with eating disorders? There are multiple factors. For one, those who struggle with eating disorders have increased risk for engaging in self-harm behaviors. In addition, those engaging in self-harm behaviors may also exhibit symptoms of eating disorders. Shame and secrecy surround both eating disorders and self-harm. Self-harm and eating disorders are often a way of coping with uncomfortable emotional pain, trauma or distress. There can also be psychological, genetic and biological components that may increase the likelihood of an individual developing an eating disorder or engaging in self-harm behaviors. As such, it is important to be mindful of the symptoms of self-harm. If you know someone who struggles with an eating disorder, stay alert to some of the warning signs that self-harm is going on. A few of those warning signs include:
  • Observable wounds, such as fresh scratches, cuts, and bruises
  • Broken bones
  • Scars, resulting from burns or from cuts
  • Frequent isolation or extreme secrecy
  • Withdrawal from or difficulty with social functions
  • The use of pants and long sleeves to cover injuries
  • Claims of recurring injuries or accidents
It goes without saying that self-harm is serious and dangerous. What’s just as important to note is that self-harm is treatable. No matter how dire it may seem, it’s never hopeless or beyond the realm of recovery. The important thing is to urge those practicing self-harm to seek treatment. If an eating disorder is also present, then holistic treatment for both co-occurring conditions is paramount. Castlewood offers individualized evaluation and treatment for eating disorders and self-harm; talk to your loved one about reaching out for treatment, and contact our team to learn more. Join us on Facebook and share your story of recovery.