Self harm (self injury)

Self harm means deliberately damaging yourself.

It could be by cutting or burning or behaving in ways we know could harm us, like taking risks with sex, alcohol or drugs.

Most people who self harm do it because they're having a hard time coping with life.

Isn't it just a 'cry for help' or attention seeking?

Most people hide their self-harming behaviour from others and keep it secret.

Even if it is, it's a pretty extreme way of asking for help and shows the person is in serious emotional distress.

When people cry for help, the thing to do is to try and help them, not to dismiss them as 'attention seeking'!

Why do people start to self-harm?

There are lots of different reasons why someone might start to self-harm.

It could be:

For some people, self-harm comes with anxiety or depression.

Other people do it because they don't like themselves and they feel they 'deserve' to be in pain.

Some people never figure out why they started, but it's safe to say that bad experiences and feeling bad both play a part.

Why do people keep self-harming?

Most people that self-harm keep doing it because it gives them some relief from bad feelings.

This is because, when we hurt ourselves, the body releases special chemicals to numb the pain.

But when these chemicals run out - i.e. we 'come down' - we can be left feeling just as bad as before.

Only now, we can feel even worse because we're ashamed or guilty at having done something bad - again.

This can soon turn into a vicious circle and is what can turn self-harming into an addiction.

Other people say that they usually feel numb and detached from reality. The pain and buzz they get from self-harming helps them to feel more alive.

How can it be bad if it makes me feel better?

The feelings of relief people get from self-harming are only temporary. Soon, the bad feelings come back.

Keeping on self-harming doesn't do anything to sort the problems causing the trouble.

Most problems that cause us serious stress don't go away because we ignore them or try to cover them up.

Then there are the physical dangers.

Cuts and burns can get infected and taking risks with safety can lead to injuries that can last a lifetime or, in extreme cases, end life.

What can I do if I want to stop?

Get help and support as soon as you can.

It's a good idea to see your doctor. They can help you make sure any wounds don't get infected and can get you help from a psychiatrist or psychotherapist.

They can send you for a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The CBT will help you explore your thoughts and feelings and to find your triggers for self-harming.

It will also help you find better ways to deal with the build up of emotions that lead to your self-harming behaviour.

It's also important to talk about your feelings.

If you can't talk to someone you know and trust, call a helpline like Childline - call free on 0800 1111 at any time.

In the meantime, make sure you're looking after yourself and getting the basics right.

Sleeping well, eating well and getting more physical activity can all help you to feel better.

What can I do if I'm worried about someone else's self-harming?

It can be upsetting to learn that someone close to you is harming themselves.

However, it's important not to get angry or try to make them feel guilty or stupid for behaving this way.

Chances are they already feel like this and they obviously have enough to deal with as it is.

Instead, gently encourage them to talk to you about what's going on.

Let them know that they can talk to you about their feelings and anything that's bothering them - this is often the best help a friend can give.

Most importantly, encourage them to get extra help and support and to see a doctor.

If it helps, you could offer to go with them if they do decide to see a doctor.

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