Self Harm Help: Understanding Self Harm and Getting Help

For some people, physical pain can be easier to deal with than emotional pain. But self-harm is a dangerous behaviour that only provides temporary relief. It does not deal with the issues that are causing you to self-harm. Self-harm is a difficult topic to talk about. But it is more common than you might think, and you can overcome it.

What is Self Harm?

Self-harm is when someone hurts or injures themselves on purpose. There are different ways people do this. They might wound themselves, pull their hair or pick at their skin, or hit themselves. Self-harming is always a sign that something is wrong, and you should take it seriously.

Why Do People Harm Themselves?

Self-harming is a common problem. Young people use self-harm as a way of dealing with their feelings that have built up. There are different reasons why people self-harm.

Some people do this because they feel desperate or overwhelmed by a problem in their life and they don’t know how to deal with it. They feel helpless and self-harming makes them feel like they have control over something. Other people find that they get angry or tense from bottling up their feelings. Self-injury allows them to relieve some of the tension that has built up.

Another reason people harm themselves is because they feel guilty or ashamed of something. They see self-harming as a way of punishing themselves. Or it might be because they feel numb because of an upsetting or traumatic experience that has happened to them. Self-harming makes them feel more alive. For people who have depression or a mental illness, self-harming can feel like a release of negative feelings.

How Can I Get Help?

If you are caught in a pattern of self-harming when you feel down, it can be difficult to get out of it. But there are ways to get help for this problem and find new ways to manage your feelings.

Let Your Friends and Family Know

A lot of people hide the fact that they self-harm. They don’t want to feel like a burden to people or they are embarrassed about what they are doing. Sharing how you feel with a family member you trust, or a friend can take the weight off your mind. And they can offer help and advice to help you.

Understand Your Triggers

Understanding your patterns of self-harm and when you are most likely to hurt yourself can help you resist the urge. A ‘trigger’ is what gives you the feeling that you need to hurt yourself. It might be a certain person, a specific thought or feeling, or a situation that makes you upset or angry.

You could practice writing down what was happening before you self-harmed. Did something happen to remind you of a difficult time? Or maybe you had a thought and that made you want to hurt yourself.

Once you are aware of the urges that cause you to self-harm, it’s easier to resist them. An urge might be a strong emotion like feeling angry or sad. It might be feeling disconnected from yourself or feeling numb. Or it might be repetitive thoughts about harming yourself. You might find it helpful to write down what you notice about your urges, so you can spot them quicker.

Find Distractions

It can also be helpful to find ways to distract yourself when you feel the urge to self-harm. This will give you some breathing space and might help reduce the intensity of that feeling. Keeping a diary so you can get those feelings off your chest might help. Or some people find talking to someone they trust like a friend helpful.

One distraction technique that works for some people is creating a positivity book of things that make you happy. It will remind you of happier times when you’re feeling sad. It can be like a scrap book of photos and memories to cheer you up when you’re feeling down.

Another idea is to get yourself moving. Go for a walk or a run or do some exercise to give yourself something else to focus on. If you have a pet, give them a cuddle or take them for a walk. 

Get Treatment

There are lots of ways to stop self-harming.

Talk to Your Doctor

For most people, the first step to getting better is to speak to their doctor. Your doctor is there to help and can link you to services in your area that can help. 

Chat to a Therapist

Therapists are trained to help people with their emotions and feelings. So, they can be helpful if you’re feeling sad or angry. They can help you better understand self harm. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is an example of a talking treatment. It can help you find ways to stop negative thoughts that cause you to self-harm.

Get Online Support

If you don’t feel like you can talk to anyone face to face, you can use online services. There are self-harm services like:

  • The Mix
  • The National Self Harm Network
  • LifeSIGNS
  • Childline
  • YoungMinds Crisis Messenger

You can email, text or post to forums on these sites for support and information. But remember that the content on these sites might be a trigger for some people. So, remember to keep yourself and others online safe by being mindful of what you say.

Things to Think About When Asking for Help

It’s important to remember that there are people there to support you and listen to you. It might be a doctor, a therapist or someone you know, like a friend or a family member. You might want to hide the fact that you are self-harming. It can be embarrassing or awkward for some people to ask for help.

But sharing your experience and why you are hurting yourself can make a big difference. It can help you feel less alone and gives other people the chance to help you.


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