Self-harm is a behaviour that involves a person harming themselves. The most common behaviour people attribute to self-harm is when people cut or scratch themselves with sharp objects. However, self-harm includes a variety of different behaviours: burning your skin, swallowing poisonous substances, or hitting yourself. Even binge drinking or being addicted to alcohol, drugs/drug overdose, or developing an eating disorder can be considered as self-harm.
It’s also important to note that self-harm is not a suicide attempt. Suicide can result from self-harm but this is often accidental. Self-harm is often a way of coping and an escape from emotional pain – not a wish to die.
Why People Self-harm
When it comes to self-harm, people often ask why anyone would turn to such a destructive behaviour. For those who have self-harmed or are self-harming, it is often because they have had painful or difficult experiences during their lifetime. These experiences can damage people’s self-esteem and if they feel that they have no support or no emotional outlet then their emotions (such as anger or sadness) can turn inward.
Therefore, self-harming or cutting is often a way of expressing or letting out emotions. In other words, self-harming can help a person to cope with the emotions that they can’t deal with (loneliness, anger, sadness, etc). As it is a coping mechanism, people can have different motivations for turning to self-harm, which brings us back to asking why people do it.
There are a range of reasons as to why a person may feel the need to self-harm. Some of the reasons are:
- to release emotions and tension.
- to express feelings that they can’t put into words.
- to distract themselves from emotions.
- To feel that they feel they have control – for some people, just knowing they can self-harm as a way of dealing with their emotions is enough to feel some release.
- to punish themselves, especially if they feel guilty or ashamed about something.
- to feel real/alive.
Many self-harmers will also cover-up or hide their cuts or scars because they are ashamed and they don’t want people to find out because of they are scared of how people may react. This fear of people’s reactions is due to the negative attitude that can surround self-harm and the assumptions that can be made about people who have self-harmed.
However, self-harmers should not feel afraid about coming forward because this negative attitude is becoming a thing of the past. The healthcare industry now has guidelines with regards to the treatment of self-harm patients, for example; examining the reasons behind the behaviour and helping them adopt better strategies. Therefore when people who self-harm come forward there are professionals available who will treat them in an understanding and supportive way.
What help is there available?
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