There is no fixed reason why people self-harm. The cause can vary for each person. Self-harming is sometimes caused by a specific experience or life event. It might be because they are anxious or depressed and self-harming helps them to feel less numb.
For others, there is no specific reason. Some people don’t know why they hurt themselves. But whatever the reason for self-harming, know that you are not alone. There is help available to people struggling with hurting themselves.
What is Self-Harm?
Self-harm can look like a lot of different things. It’s any behaviour where someone hurts themselves on purpose. People can do this as a way of coping with difficult thoughts or feelings, like depression, anxiety or anger.
Self-harming, involves behaviour that causes harm to the body, this can include picking the skin, causing a wound and hitting yourself. It can also be overdosing on medication, starving yourself or another high-risk behaviour. Anything that causes harm or injury to you on purpose can be labelled self-harm.
Why Do People Self-Harm?
For a lot of people, self-harm starts as a way of relieving the build-up of difficult emotions. For example, if someone has been feeling sad or upset for a long time, they might feel overwhelmed by these feelings.
Self-harm can feel like a relief for some people. But it’s important to remember that this relief is only temporary. Often, the feeling of relief is followed by feelings of guilt or shame. This can then cause them to self-harm again, creating a cycle that is difficult to get out of.
Any difficult situation or emotional experience can lead someone to self-harm. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Pressure or difficulty at school
- Losing someone close to you
- Being a victim of homophobia, biphobia or transphobia
- Physical or emotional abuse
- Low self-esteem
- An illness or health condition
- Mental health problems, like depression or anxiety
When a few of these problems happen at once, it can feel very overwhelming and difficult to deal with. This can cause people to hurt themselves because they don’t know what else to do. It can be a coping strategy for some people, and everyone has their own ways of coping with upsetting things. Self-harm can be a common way for some young people to experience difficult emotions.
Why is Self-Harming a Coping Strategy?
There are many reasons why people choose to self-harm as a way of coping. It can feel like a physical release of tension when the emotional pressure becomes too much. It can also make people feel more alive when they feel numb or disconnected from their life.
If someone feels ashamed or guilty about something, it can be a form of punishment. It can also offer a sense of control for people who feel like their life is out of their control.
But self-harm can also be a way of communicating. If someone finds it difficult to talk to others about how they are feeling, self-harming can be a way of showing their unhappiness and asking for help. It’s not a cry for attention but it can be a way of showing to others that something is wrong when talking about it is too difficult for them.
Self-harm is more common than you might think. It’s likely that at least a few people at your school have self-harmed at some point or considered it. If you are hurting yourself, you are not alone. There is a lot of support available to help people dealing with this problem.
And there are ways of stopping. You should always remember that you won’t always feel like you do now. Most people who self-harm recover from it with help and support from others.
Tips for Staying Safe
Staying safe is the most important thing and self-harming is not a positive way to deal with what’s going on in your life. While it can be difficult to stop if you are in the habit of self-harming, there are ways to keep yourself safe in the meantime.
Talk to Someone
Talking about our problems can help take the pressure off. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by something and feel like you want to hurt yourself, try talking to a friend or a family member instead. It can be comforting to know that there are people you can call or message when you need them, even if it’s just for a chat to calm you down.
Treat Serious Wounds
Wounds can carry the risk of infection, so you need to look after any type of injury. You may need medical attention if you have a serious injury. And if you start to feel unwell or like you are going to faint, get help as soon as possible. If you need to go to hospital, find an adult you trust who can help you. You don’t have to tell them about self-harming if you don’t want to. But make sure that you get medical attention immediately.
Create a Safe Box
A safe box can be helpful to get you through those times when you have the urge to hurt yourself. You can put whatever you want in the box. Some ideas are your favourite book, a CD or film that makes you happy, or anything that will calm you down when you feel sad or overwhelmed.
Find What Makes You Happy
Doing things that you enjoy can be a great way of improving your self-esteem and reminding yourself of the things that make you happy. Maybe there is a sport you’re good at or you might love to paint or write. Whatever it is that you enjoy spending your time doing, take the time to do these things to improve your mood.
It can be easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself. You might feel like you have to achieve certain things or behave in a certain way to feel good enough. But try not to be so hard on yourself. It’s important to take care of yourself at all times and to stay safe, even when you feel down or upset.