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Self Harm

Self-harm is when you hurt yourself as a way of dealing with very difficult feelings, painful memories or overwhelming situations and experiences. 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 themselves for their feelings and experiences
  • Stop feeling numb, disconnected or dissociated (opens new page)
  • Create a reason to physically care for themselves
  • Express suicidal feelings (opens new page) and thoughts without taking their own life.

Sometimes it feels like no one understands why you self-harm, but lots more people today know about what the condition really means.

After self-harming you may feel a short-term sense of release, but the cause of your distress is unlikely to have gone away. Self-harm can also bring up very difficult emotions and could make you feel worse.

At the bottom of this page we have linked helpful and useful sites which can help with different types of self harm. 

Non physical self harm

Self-harm doesn’t always manifest physically, and self-destructive behaviour  can crop up in areas of our lives we may not be aware of.

Examples of these behaviours could be :

  • Overspending - can be simply defined as living beyond your financial means. If you overspend, there is no shame in struggling. Whether you struggle with depression and spending money feels like it “fills” the emptiness, or maybe borderline personality disorder (BPD) or bipolar disorder affecting impulse control, overspending is a common struggle. 

  • Isolating yourself - Isolation is a common experience for those living with mental illness. Though isolation isn’t always a self harm behaviour, pay attention to your motivations for isolating yourself when you feel those feelings come up, and try to challenge yourself to reach out to a loved one.

  • Watching/reading things to make yourself feel bad on purpose - It’s natural for people to match what they watch or listen to how they are feeling — listening to sad music when you’re sad is a thing for a reason, but if you find that you are using the media you consume as a tool for making yourself feel worse on purpose, we encourage you to change your surroundings and reach out for help if you need it. 

  • Eating too much or too little - people who struggle with eating disorder  (opens new page) often struggle with self-harm behaviours as well. Though not all people who self-harm using food automatically have an eating disorder, it’s important to reach out to a medical professional if you are preoccupied about food, or it is affecting your daily functioning.

  • Excessive use of drugs and alcohol - Turning to substances is a common numbing strategy  when coping with intense emotions. Whether you are using substances as a form of self-harm intentionally or not, using alcohol or drugs can cause significant bodily harm.

At the bottom of the page we have provided links to services/groups that can help with any of the above issues. 

Take the first step.
if you think you are affected by self-harm, talk to someone - a parent or relative you trust, perhaps a teacher or youth worker. If you don’t think you can confide in anyone, talk to your GP.

Why talk to your GP?
Self-harm can be a sign of other disorders that you need help with - such as depression (opens new page) or anxiety (opens new page)- and they can refer you to the right people for treatment. You may also be referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (opens new page) so you can have an assessment for the right treatment for you.

 

There are no fixed rules about why people self-harm. It really can be very different for everyone.

For some people, self-harm is linked to specific experiences and is a way of dealing with something that's either happening at the moment or which happened in the past. For others, the reasons are less clear and can be harder to make sense of.

Sometimes you might not know why you hurt yourself. If you don’t understand the reasons for your self-harm, you are not alone and you can still get help.

ny difficult experience can cause someone to self-harm. Common reasons include:

  • Pressures at school or work.
  • bullying.
  • Money worries.
  • Sexual, physical emotional abuse.
  • Bereavement .
  • Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia .
  • Breakdown of a relationship.
  • Loss of a job.
  • An illness or health problem.
  • Low self esteem.
  • An increase in stress.
  • Difficult feelings, such as depression, anxiety, anger or numbness.

Last updated: 20/11/2020

Useful links

Beat - Eating disorders

Beat - Eating disorder

Mind - Self harm

Mind - Self harm

NHS - Self harm help

NHS self harm help