What is self-harm?
Self-harm is when someone intentionally damages or injures their body. Also known as self-injury, it can take on many forms, such as cutting, burning, hitting or scratching.
Risky behaviour that can be harmful, such as binge drinking to the point of blacking out or vomiting regularly, restricting food intake or overeating is also considered self-harm behaviour.
Why do people self-harm?
Although self-harm is very common there is no typical type of person who engages in it. For those who do self-harm, it can act as a coping mechanism. It can become a way to deal with overwhelming feelings. The reasons for self-harm could include:
- Feeling unable to communicate difficult feelings
- Having a negative body image (‘hating’ oneself)
- Feeling numb (not being able to identify any feelings)
- As a form of self-punishment
- To feel in control
- To provide a distraction from problems.
We know that some young people feel relief or a sense of release from those feelings when they engage in self-harm. However, the relief is temporary and ineffective in the long run. Usually, the feeling of relief only lasts a few minutes, but the scars and physical effects could last much longer.
Self-harm itself can cause someone to feel guilt and shame about the action, which can then feed into a cycle of behaviour. It can also lead us to feel isolated and alone, holding a secret that we feel we can’t share.
Working on communicating or managing negative feelings can help you overcome the need to self-harm.