Self-harm is when you hurt yourself as a way of dealing with very difficult feelings, old memories, or overwhelming situations and experiences. The ways you hurt yourself can be physical, such as cutting yourself. They can also be less obvious, such as putting yourself in risky situations, or not looking after your own physical or emotional needs.
After self-harming, you might feel better and more able to cope for a while. However, self-harm can bring up very difficult feelings and could make you feel worse.
If you self-harm, you may feel embarrassed or ashamed about it. You might be worried that other people will judge you or pressurise you to stop if you tell them about it. This may mean that you keep your self-harming a secret. This is a very common reaction, although not everyone does this.
There are no fixed rules about why people self-harm. For some people, it can be linked to specific experiences, and be a way of dealing with something that is happening now, or that happened in the past. For others, it is less clear. If you don’t understand the reasons for your self-harm, it’s important to remind yourself that this is OK, and you don’t need to know this in order to ask for help.
Sometimes people talk about self-harm as attention-seeking. If people make comments like this, it can leave you feeling judged and alienated. In reality, most people keep their self-harm private, and it can feel very painful to have your behaviour misunderstood in this way. If you do self-harm as a way of bringing attention to yourself, remember that you deserve a respectful response from those around you, including from health-care professionals.
You might believe that it is impossible to stop self-harming if you have been doing it for a while. This isn’t true. It can take time, effort and determination to stop, but lots of people have managed to do it. Sometimes, you may need to get outside support to help you make positive changes. You may find that you need to try a few different things to find what works for you, and combine self-help techniques with professional support.
How therapy can help:
Therapy offers a warm, empathic, safe and confidential environment in which Brian and you collaboratively work towards:
- Understanding the underlying causes and triggers of your self-harm, both conscious and unconscious
- Developing ways to manage your self-harm – this usually involves both cognitive (how you think about it) and behavioural (actions, tasks, homework etc) work