If you self harm or have thoughts of suicide then please contact me for help.
It may be necessary to talk to a mental health professional to help you to work through some of the reasons why you are harming yourself and to find alternative strategies for alleviating the pain you feel inside.
What is deliberate self-harm?
Deliberate self-harm is when you deliberately inflict physical harm on yourself, usually in secret and often without anyone else knowing. Self-harming behaviours can include:
- Cutting your skin with knives or any sharp object
- Burning your skin
- Hitting your body with an object or fists (like punching the wall)
- Deliberately falling when doing something like extreme sports
- Picking at your skin
- Swallowing pills or sharp objects
- Pulling at your hair (hair pulling can also be a habit).
Self-harming usually does not mean that a person wants to commit suicide or that they are looking for attention. Usually when people harm themselves, they are suffering a great deal inside.
Why do people deliberately harm themselves?
People who deliberately harm themselves have often had tough experiences or relationships in their lives. They may have:
- Been bullied or discriminated against
- Lost someone close, such as a parent, brother, sister or friend
- Broken up with a boyfriend or girlfriend
- Been physically or sexually abused
- Experienced a serious illness or disability that affects the way they feel about themselves
- Experienced problems with family, school or peer groups
Deliberate self-harm may be used as a way to cope with experiences and the strong feelings associated with them. Self-harm may:
- Provide a way to express difficult or hidden feelings
- It is not uncommon to feel numb or empty as a result of overwhelming feelings you may be experiencing and engaging in deliberate self-harm may provide you with a temporary sense of feeling again. It may also provide a way to express anger, sadness, grief or hurt.
- Be a way of communicating to people that you need some support
- When you feel unable to use words or any other way to do so, you may feel that the only way you have left is to harm yourself.
- Be a way of proving to yourself that you are not invisible
- Feeling the pain when you harm yourself can make you feel real – like you are not invisible – that you do have feelings and that you aren’t numb.
- You might feel that self-harm is one way you can have a sense of control over your life, feelings, or body, especially if you feel as if other things in your life are out of control.
- Bring an immediate sense of relief
It is only a temporary ‘solution’ though, a ‘band-aid fix’, because your real feelings of hurt and distress have not been dealt with. It can also cause permanent damage to your body if you injure nerves.
Helping Yourself – Understanding why you do it
Stopping is easier if you can find other ways of expressing or coping with your feelings. To do this you need to try to understand what makes you do it. Lots of people don’t know why they hurt themselves so it may be useful to think about:
- What was going on in your life when you first began to harm yourself?
- How you feel just before you wan to hurt yourself. Some people find it useful to keep a ‘mood’ diary so they can write down their feelings at different times.
- Are you always in the same place or with a particular person?
- Do you have any bad memories or thoughts that you can’t tell to anyone?
When you feel anxious or upset, doing something you enjoy or trying to think about other things can be a way to help you stop hurting yourself. You could try:
- Phoning a friend
- Writing down your feelings in a diary.
- Listening to music, drawing or reading.
- Going for a walk or a run, dancing, exercising or playing sport.
- Counting down slowly from 10 to 0.
- Breathing slowly, in through the nose and out through the mouth.
- Focusing on objects around you and thinking about what they look, sound, smell, taste and feel like.
If you still want to hurt yourself try:
- Finding a safe punching bag like some pillows.
- Putting your hands into a bowl of ice cubes for a short time or rubbing ice on the part of your body you feel like injuring.
- Using a red felt tip marker or lipstick to mark your body instead of cutting.
- Putting a rubber band around your wrist and flicking it.
- Putting band aids on the parts of your body you want to injure.
Trying to work through these strategies by yourself, when you are in a bad frame of mind can be difficult. Knowing that others have overcome similar issues with the help of counselling is worth thinking about.