Self Harm

The number of people who find themselves considering self harm, or who are already trapped in a destructive circle of abuse, seems to be increasing.  So are the myths that swirl around the subject, many of them fuelled by ignorance and fear.

Not everyone who self harms is on the road to committing suicide. It’s important to be able to identify the differences.

Boys are as likely to self harm as girls, despite the subject getting far more coverage in girls magazines than in boys.

Self harming is not confined to teenagers. It’s true there is a growing number of adolescents turning to self harming as their preferred coping method, but men and women resort to various forms of self harming or destructive behaviour too.

Those who self harm are not just ‘attention seeking’.  Self harming is essentially a secretive behaviour, and people who do it may be trying very hard not to attract attention.

The reality is that most people who self harm are suffering from other problems or issues and have chosen self harm as the most appropriate coping mechanism for them.

Many are trying to deal with overwhelming levels of distress, anxiety or stress and are using self harm as a way of managing to continue with their lives, while struggling to deal with their trauma.

It may seem surprising to those who have no experience of self harming but to many who do it they believe self harm enables them to avoid the more debilitating feelings caused by stress, anxiety or distress. They feel it at least gives them some control over emotions which would otherwise overwhelm them.

So why do people end up with such a dangerous coping mechanism?  Everyone is different and it’s not helpful to generalise and treat everyone the same way.  It’s not uncommon for some people to find it difficult to explain why they do it, or what they get from it.

Some of the more common ‘explanations’ include:

  • A form of self-expression.
  • Relief from distress or anxiety.
  • Help to suppress more damaging emotions.
  • Calm tension.
  • Remove repetitive or persistent thoughts.
  • Control over emotions.

Many people trapped into self harming know it’s not ‘normal’ to hurt themselves and they worry about how others will see them if they find out.  Some go to extraordinary lengths to hide their harming.

They know it’s not a good coping mechanism, but for whatever reason, it’s their chosen method.  And they are under tremendous pressure to ‘just stop’, which they can’t do.  This feeds a vicious circle which is difficult to break without help.

Simply ‘stopping’ harming is rarely the solution, long term, and willpower is hardly ever enough to resist the compulsion. There are distractions which might bring temporary respite while the underlying causes and concerns are addressed.  If these issues are not properly resolved there is a danger that the harming will just be hidden more effectively, or there will be a switch to a different, possibly more damaging, coping mechanism.

Mind In SyncMind In Sync, based in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, has experience with many people caught up in a cycle of harming and can help you break that cycle.

For more information about all forms of self harming please go to – a charity set up to help people who abuse themselves.

We will help you regain control of your life. 

For more information about how Mind In Sync can help people in Herts, Beds and Bucks cope with stress please email or call 07885 350469.