Self-Harm and Relationships: Don't Make Loved Ones Complicit

October 31, 2018 Kayla Chang

Self-harm affects your relationships but asking others to keep your self-harm a secret is wholly detrimental. Learn why you shouldn't make others complicit at HealthyPlace

Self-harm affects relationships negatively when you swear your loved ones to secrecy. As you know, one of the worst things about self-harm is all the lying, all the secrecy.  Whether you have self-harmed once or have had a habit for years, chances are that it is not something you are open about. Chances are that, somewhere along the way, you have lied — either directly or by omission — to someone about your self-harm

But say you confided in one person, or maybe even two ("How Do You Tell Someone You Self-Injure?"). Or say that someone constructed the truth by inference and confronted you about it, or found out about your self-harm purely by accident. If you are at this stage, in which the truth about your self-harm is coming out in dribs and drabs, you are most likely not feeling ready to be open about it or even to accept help. And if you are not feeling ready to be open about it and/or to accept help, you will probably ask whoever finds out about your self-harm to keep what they know a secret.

How the Secrecy of Self-Harm Affects Relationships

This is not to make you feel guilty. This is not to imply that you are a bad person for engaging in self-harm. Considering how the secrets you guard in order to sustain the self-harm affects those around you is simply a way to gain some needed perspective. 

Self-destructive habits and mental illness tend to narrow your vision. The suffering is often so acute and so wholly demanding of your attention that it can feel as though the suffering is all there is. And when it feels as though suffering is all there is, it can seem inescapable. 

Considering others is not only for their benefit but also for our own.

So, consider this:

Everyone is taught to turn to seek out the help of authority figures and professionals when faced with a situation that they do not know how to deal with. Most people do not know how to deal with self-harm. Most people's first instinct when they find out about your self-harm will not be to keep it a secret but to enlist the help of a mental health professional, or at least of some authority figure in your life (such as a parent or teacher). It will feel to them like the right thing to do — not the easiest or most comfortable thing, but the most responsible one. 

By asking people to help hide your self-harm, you are asking them to be complicit in something they feel is wrong and dangerous. People's frustration comes from not understanding your self-harm, but their anger comes from being held hostage against doing the only thing they know they need to do. 

This can plant seeds of resentment and distrust in a relationship. The longer you expect the other person to keep your secret, the more it nourishes those seeds. 

Of all the great changes that come with freeing yourself from self-harm, the ability to have honest relationships is one of the most valuable things you will gain. Don't let self-harm affect your relationships by asking your friends to keep it a secret.

APA Reference
Chang, K. (2018, October 31). Self-Harm and Relationships: Don't Make Loved Ones Complicit, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 25 from

Author: Kayla Chang

You can find Kayla on Google+.

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