Self-harming or self-hurting

Self-harming is a complex problem so I will run through some basics first. It does tend to be in younger people – often betwwen 14-25. But it can be found across a much wider age range and across genders and races.

What is self-harming?

Self-harming is when you harm or hurt yourself on purpose. There are many ways people self-harm the most common ones are listed below.

 

  • Womans legs with cut scars Self-harming

    Self-harming bandages and old scars on legs

    Cutting: using knife, razor or scissors

  • Stabbing: sticking sharp objects into your body – pins, needles, nails, staples
  • Burning: with cigarette, lighter or matches
  • Scalding: with hot water, rarely cooking oil
  • Banging against hard objects to cause bleeding and injury
  • Scratching parts of the body until they bleed
  • Picking at the skin until it bleeds
  • Breaking bones
  • Hair pulling: usually until there is a bald patch
  • Self-strangulation
  • Taking things that are toxic – overdose of medication, drugs, household fluids, etc
  • Drinking too much alcohol to harm purposefully yourself. (Very different to drinking or for pleasure).

Self-harm thoughts and actions are very different to suicidal ones. Self-harming does not mean you want to kill yourself. However; people who feel suicidal do want to end it all.

Why do people engage in self-harming?

It is almost impossible to write a list of all the reasons that people self-harm for. The most common are listed below:

  • to cope with strong negative emotions like anger, grief, remorse and guilt
  • to punish them self for things they feel they have done wrong
  • to try to feel normal – pain give a sense of relief and normality
  • to take their mind off the negative feelings.

Some peoplestart self-harming over the same thing each time but many people do it for different reasons every time.

Typical reasons for self-harming;

  • difficult family life and/or other relationships
  • being  bullied or abused
  • depression, anxiety or a personality disorder,
  • issues with housing – homeless
  • drugs taking or too much alcohol.
  • coping with bad thoughts, emotions and feelings – they cause overwhelm
  • to feel like they are in control of their body and mind
  • punishment for ‘being a bad person’ or ‘it’s all my fault it happened’; self-hatred

Is it right to say that self-harming a mental health problem?

This is a little bit tricky to answer. Self-harming is a very clear sign that someone is in distress, which may be due to a mental illness. However; there are many people engaged in self-harming who have no mental illness.

So we have to say that self-harm is not a mental health issue in itself. However; it could be a part of a diagnosis procedure for: eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. It is important for a person and their doctor to find out why you are self-harming. If it is due to bipolar disorder or schizophrenia I cannot work with you.

Research has shown that people who self-harm are at more risk of suicide than people who have never self-harmed. The figure quoted is 66 times more likely that someone will end their lives if they have recently had a bout of self-harming. Women are at a greater risk of suicide than men.

These figues may be somewhat skewed. If the person’s method of self-harming was drugs, too much alcohol, strangulation or injury, there is high a risk that they could have accidentally ended their life.

The Flourish Programme is to be used instead of or alongside the standard conventional treatments for Self-harming support. I will never suggest stopping any form of treatment