What is self harm?
Self-harm describes any behaviour where someone causes harm to themselves, usually as a way to help cope with difficult or distressing thoughts and feelings. It most frequently takes the form of cutting, burning or non-lethal overdoses. It includes any intentional behavior that causes injury (whether minor or high risk).
Self-harm is something that can affect anyone. It should be taken seriously, whatever the reason behind it. Teenagers may be prone to it as are adults with untreated mental health issues.
The self-harm cycle:
Self-harm usually starts as a way to relieve the build-up of pressure from distressing thoughts and feelings. This might give temporary relief from the emotional pain. However, the underlying reasons still remain, and the cycle continues.
The cycle begins when self harm leads to temporary relief, which leads to feelings of shame or grief. This emotional suffering leads to an emotional overload leading to panic, and then a person feels the need to self-harm again to cope.
While anyone can be affected by self-harm, some people are more at risk of self-harm than others because of some or a combination of factors:
Experience of a mental health disorder. This might include depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and eating disorders.
Being a young person who is not under the care of their parents, or young people who have left a care home.
Being part of the LGBT community.
Having been bereaved by suicide.
Having any of these does not mean someone will self-harm. Similarly, someone who self-harms might not experience any of these.
Why do people self harm?
While everybody can have different reasons, some triggers include difficulties at home, persistent arguments or social problems, low self-esteem, difficult transitions and changes in life, alcohol and drug use, amongst many others.
Without expressing distressing emotions, the pressure of such difficulties builds up until it is unbearable and too much for one person to deal with. Some people then turn this in on themselves and use their bodies as a way to express the thoughts and feelings they can’t say aloud.
Breaking Down false Myths:
MYTH: ‘Self-harm is attention-seeking’: This is not the case. Many people who self-harm don’t talk to anyone about what they are going through for a long time and it can be very hard for people to find enough courage to ask for help.
MYTH: ‘Self-harm is a goth thing’: This is only a stereotype. There is no conclusive evidence of this with little or no evidence supporting the belief that self-harm is part of any particular young person subculture like “goth” or “emo”.
MYTH: ‘Only girls self-harm’: Both boys and girls may engage with different self-harming behaviours or have different reasons for hurting themselves, but this doesn’t make it any less serious.
MYTH: ‘People who self-harm must enjoy it’: There is no evidence that people who self-harm feel pain differently than anyone else. The harming behaviour often causes people great pain. For some, being depressed has left them numb and they want to feel anything to remind them they are alive, even if it hurts. Others have described this pain as punishment.
MYTH: ‘People who self-harm are suicidal’: For many people self-harms is about trying to cope with difficult feelings and circumstances. Some people have described it is a way of staying alive and surviving these difficulties. However, some people who self-harm can feel suicidal and might attempt to take their own life.
Because it seems like a temporary relief, self harm can become someone’s normal way of dealing with life’s difficulties. This means that it is important to talk to someone as early as possible to get the right support and help. Remember that support is available and you are not alone. You won’t always feel the way you do now and you can recover. Please visit “self-harm part 2” for more information on how to get help and begin your recovery process.