Self-Harm Secrets: Having Your Self-Harm 'Outed'

December 21, 2018 Kayla Chang

Having the secret of self-harm outed to the people you know can be a difficult situation to navigate, but can also be thought of as an opportunity to ask for help.

When you self-harm, secrets are a priority. Self-harm thrives on secrecy. It relies on shame, embarrassment, and social taboo to survive. Contrary to the stereotype of the attention-seeking self-harmer, many self-harmers actually live in constant fear of being found out — of having their self-harm secrets come to light.

But this fear is also often coupled in a strange way with the desire to be found out. This desire stems from the still-healthy part of you, however small or quiet, that realizes you not only need help but also want it. A person can want help without wanting to ask for it, and this is never truer than in the case of mental health struggles.

What It Feels Like to Have Your Secret Self-Harm Outed

In my experience, people will sometimes notice your self-harm secret but choose not to say anything about it. It is an uncomfortable conversation to have with someone you may not have a certain kind of relationship with, and so people will try to avoid talking about it in any serious way ("How to Talk to Someone About Self-Injury"). They may also feel that they are not qualified to address the issue or that it is not their place to do so given the nature of your relationship with them. 

But there are people in your life to whom you cannot imagine revealing your self-harm issues ("Speaking to Loved Ones About Your Self-Harm"). This could be your parents, your significant other, an authority figure of some kind — anyone with whom your relationship feels contingent on maintaining an image of yourself that does not betray extreme vulnerability. 

That is how it feels to have your self-harm outed: as though your relationships will never be the same again because pity and misunderstanding will forever color people's perception of you. You feel naked, paraded around, prodded at. You feel attacked from all sides, betrayed by the choices you have made leading up to this point, trapped by circumstances now beyond your control.

Viewing Your Secret Self-Harm Outing As an Opportunity

Having your secret self-harm found out is not an easy thing to deal with. Your first reaction might be to lash out, retreat, or ignore it altogether. But, as mentioned earlier, the fear of being found out is often coupled with the desire to be found out. It may be helpful then to re-frame the situation as an opportunity for you to receive the help some part of you still wants.

Chances are, your self-harm secret will be outed to several people, several times, over several instances. Each time is an opportunity for you to leave this painful part of your life behind you and grow beyond it. Every time that the curtain is drawn back is an opportunity for you to move closer and closer into the light.

APA Reference
Chang, K. (2018, December 21). Self-Harm Secrets: Having Your Self-Harm 'Outed', HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Author: Kayla Chang

You can find Kayla on Google+.

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