What is self-harm?
There are many definitions of self-harm but to put it simply, self-harm is when somebody intentionally damages or injures their body. It’s usually a way of coping with or expressing overwhelming emotional distress.
Why do people self-harm?
Some people have described self-harm as a way to:
- express something that is hard to put into words
- turn invisible thoughts or feelings into something visible
- change emotional pain into physical pain
- reduce overwhelming emotional feelings or thoughts
- have a sense of being in control
- escape traumatic memories
- have something in life that they can rely on
- punish yourself for your feelings and experiences
- stop feeling numb, disconnected or dissociated
- create a reason to physically care for themselves
- express suicidal feelings and thoughts without taking their own life.
If you want to learn more, have a look at these blogs written by people who have personal experience of self-harming. By writing about the issue they aim to help break down the stereotypes and stigmatising ideas that can be associated with self-harm.
Let’s debunk some myths
Which ones did you think were true?
- Self-harm is an issue that all groups feel least comfortable approaching with young people
- People who self-harm use it as a way to release pressure and feelings
- People who self-harm typically hide it from others
Is it just attention seeking?
Many people who self-harm do not talk about it. In reality, they can feel embarrassed and alienated and often keep it a secret. For some, they may want others to know how much mental distress they are experiencing but self-harm should not be viewed as attention seeking behaviour.
Who does it affect?
Self-harm can affect anyone, at any age. However, most are between the ages of 11 and 25 with adolescent females being the highest in this group.
How do I know if it is self-harm?
- If you do something unhealthy or dangerous on a regular basis to distract yourself from the way you’re feeling
- When it feels like a habit you can’t stop
- If it feels like self-destruction is easier than tackling your issues
- If you feel emotionally ‘numb’ and unhealthy behaviours help you to ‘feel’ something
- When you feel stuck in your head and you regularly use unhealthy behaviour to break free from your thoughts
- If you feel like you don’t deserve to be happy
Getting support for self-harming
It can be difficult to stop the cycle of self-harming but support is at hand. It is ok to feel nervous or scared to ask for help. Getting professional support is key to working through the patterns of self-harm.
Next week, I will be talking about what signs to look out for and what interventions are available to support people who self-harm.