Many people who have been abused use self-harm as a means of coping with life. Some cut themselves, burn themselves or take risks, or they hurt themselves in a variety of ways. Parents and carers often do not understand why the young person is self-harming and they often over react and make things worse. Often self-harming is mistaken for a suicide attempt but is is not an attempt to die but rather an attempt to cope with living.

When a person cuts or hurts themselves, the body releases chemicals which gives some feelings of relief. Unfortunately, the relief does not last long. This often leads to more intense self-harm and over time this can be addictive.

Why do people self-harm?

There can be a variety of different reasons why someone might self-harm. It can be because there is internal pain and a need to feel a physical or visible pain; a need to feel alive; a need to express self; a need to bandage and care for a wound; to make the pain visible; to feel a sense of belonging; to communicate. There are many many reasons.

Is self-harming attention seeking?

Not at all. Self-harming could be attention needing but it is rarely attention seeking. Many people who self-harm hide what they are doing.

Does it mean someone enjoys feeling pain?

No it does not. Self-harm is a way of coping with unbearable stress and inner pain.

If I self-harm does it mean that I have a mental health problem?

No in itself no. Self harm is a normal response to stress and something that everyone does in one way or another when stressed out. Some people drink alcohol to numb themselves and some people cut themselves.

Does everyone who self-harms do it because of abuse?

No! Any kind of stress can lead to self-harm.

Is self-harming just cutting?

Self-harming can be anything that harms self. It can be cutting, burning, rubbing, pulling hair out, picking, biting, scrubbing, punching, head banging, alcohol, drugs, risky behaviour, sex, and many more things.

How can self-harming be stopped?

The best way to try and stop self-harming is to learn more about it, what caused it and what feelings are around at the time. Through reading, talking and learning what the triggers are for it, a person can begin to understand and find ways of reducing self-harm and over time and replace the harming with less harming things. There are many distractions that can be tried depending on the reason for the self-harming.

I cut myself when I feel numb. What can I do to try and stop this?

Don’t wait until the next time the feelings or lack of feelings creep up on you, get yourself prepared in advance. Make a list of what might help distract you? You could try using elastic bands on your wrist to feel something next time that numbness appears. Or a cold shower perhaps might help? Crunch an ice cube?