What is self-harm?
Self-harm or self-injury is when someone hurts themselves intentionally as a means of expressing, releasing or coping with intense feelings. The reason people self-harm is often complex, very personal and often feel deeply private. It may be a matter of pushing emotional pain into a physical outlet. It may be a way of expressing hidden feelings. It is important to know that sometimes self-harming is a survival technique, a way of releasing or controlling emotions that may otherwise leave someone feeling worse.
What you might experience
Self-harming can take on many forms, not just cutting but also scratching, bruising, burning, scalding, inserting objects into the body, pulling hair out (trichotillomania) or taking an overdose. By self-harming it can feel like these feelings are more manageable for a while, but the release or the escape is only short term.
If you are self-harming then you might have hurt yourself a few times, or you might be self-harming on a regular basis. You might find you have done the following:
- Self-inflicted cuts, scratches, bruises or other wounds
- Wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather to hide wounds
- Claiming to have frequent accidents or mishaps
- Spending a great deal of time alone
- Carving words or symbols on the skin
How to look after yourself
It can be hard to give up self-harming behaviours however you can find other ways to cope with difficult feelings.
- Identify where the distress and painful feelings are coming which are triggering the urge to self-harm. Write down what you noticed about how you were feeling and what might have triggered you.
- Create a list of things to do which can replace self-harming; think about what outlets you have to express frustration, sadness, numbness or a need for control. Some ideas below:
If you’re feeling frustrated: hit a pillow / throw the pillow on the ground, tear scrap paper up into pieces, dance, exercise, sing out loud
If you’re feeling numb: Smell your favourite scents, flick elastic bands on your wrist
If you’re feeling the need for control: tidy up, clean your room, make lists, try guided stretching exercises.
- Take your focus away from thinking about harming yourself by distracting yourself with tasks or things like phone games, fidget spinner, counting your breath.
- You can ask for support from your school nurse and GP
- Download the Calm Harm app for ideas to help resist or manage urge to self-harm.
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed with emotions and need someone to talk to, you can get in touch with 24/7 support services such as Samaritans (116 123) and Childline (0800 1111).