Understanding self-harm

When I say ‘addiction’, what do you think of?
Gambling, smoking, taking drugs, video gaming.
Do you think of things like drinking? Perhaps not, but I think sometimes we are accepting/we overlook certain evils: drinking and smoking can be social activities, it is done not out of harm but rather as something fun, something enjoyable and it’s ok to engage in them. There is always that blurred line of things done in excess or not.


I’ve been thinking about common self-harm techniques; I can understand some of them, but others confound me. I’ve just been challenging the concept of self-harm: things that we may not think are self-harming, but are. Things like overeating (I read a book about it – when one eats such that eating is no longer enjoyable, but she eats because she is anxious, nervous, afraid. She stuffs herself even though she feels so full. It is discomfort, it is self-harm, a form of distraction). I suppose I can understand why people self-harm in certain ways: e.g. overeating – eating is generally pleasurable, so one eats when one is sad, but some do it in excess since they feel that food is their drug (consume more and you will be happy). Same with alcoholism – you self-harm by excessively drinking because you think that drinking will help take away the pain (when you get too drunk to remember anything). I can understand under-eating as well – people self-harm this way because it is ‘productive’; under-eating can help them lose weight, make them look better, help them save money. I can understand things like excessive running/exercise – you run to escape your thoughts, it helps you not think, it gets you in shape. (All these things done in excess is self-harming) There is rationale and reason to these forms of self-harm/addictions.

I don’t quite understand the concept of cutting though. Why do people do it? What is it meant to accomplish? It isn’t productive, it isn’t ‘pleasurable’? It’s painful? (I can’t understand why do people do things like bite their nails/peel their skin until it bleeds when they are nervous; same kind of self-harm). If you’re nervous, why not tap the table or pace or something? I hear that people cut to ‘let their internal pain be something external, something that they can focus on’, but I still don’t see the logic behind it. Sure, I can understand how people may feel deserving of pain (that may be why people self-harm in the first place; they don’t feel like they deserve rest and hence overwork their bodies), but why not hurt yourself in a ‘beneficial’ way – for spiritual reasons or health or idk something else.

Would love to hear some thoughts about this.