Many people find that it’s hard to get emotional relief with traditional strategies (e.g., talking with friends). Consequently, they may resort to generating pain relief in order to generate emotional relief. Unfortunately, this also means that they have to generate acute, intense pain; that is, they have to engage in NSSI. Despite being an effective emotion relief strategy, NSSI is also a health-risk behavior that is associated with an increased risk of suicide. In short, NSSI can be a good thing for temporary emotional relief, but it’s a bad thing for health.
The vast majority of people who engage in NSSI are not seeking to manipulate anyone and they’re not wired differently than the rest of us. They simply tap into the natural emotional relief that accompanies the removal of intense, acute pain. They do this because they have trouble finding healthier ways to reduce their stress. Accordingly, ostracizing people who engage in NSSI only creates more stress and makes NSSI worse. The best way to help someone who engages in NSSI is to guide them to healthier ways to feel better.