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Hurting yourself to cope with extreme emotional hurt or a feelings of being overwhelmed is known as self harming. There are many reasons that people may do this. Contradictory to many misunderstandings, it is often not as a suicide attempt or a play for attention, although these may be the reasons for some. For many it is a way to release a huge build up of tension. This can have many different and difficult life situations as a cause. There are a number of ways that people may self harm. The key thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter how you self harm, if it is an intentional action where you cause injury to yourself it counts as self harm or injury. While many consider this to be a teenage problem, there are also adults that engage in self harm.

There are many causes of self harm that can be different from person to person. Some people may self harm as a result of bereavement, life stress, bullying, financial concerns or sexuality confusion. Other may do so as a result of emotional feelings caused by other mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or dissociation.

The signs of self harm include but are not limited to:

    • Unexplained cuts, scratches or other injuries on the body
    • Mood changes
    • Wearing long sleeves or trousers even in hot weather
    • Refusing to change in front of other people at a gym or during P.E (although this may be completely innocent)
    • Signs that hair has been pulled out
    • Secrecy. Hiding items in rooms or keeping things locked
    • Changes in socialisation or sleep
    • A lack of communication
  • Carrying unnecessary sharp objects or lighters

If you are a parent of a teenager, it is also important to note that many of these are normal teenage behaviours. If you are concerned, you should talk to your child about your fears.

Treatment for self harm will depend on the cause of the problem. It may include talking therapies, support groups, the support of family and friends, peer support online and medications. Medications are not strictly for self harm. However, they may be used to reduce the symptoms of other mental health problems which are causing you to feel like you need to self harm. The type of medication will depend on the underlying problem. They may include anti depressants, anti anxiety medication, mood stabilisers or antipsychotics. Talking therapies will often include support groups or one to one therapy, often CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). It will also be important for you to accept your own feelings and take responsibility for helping yourself recover. This means working out what triggers the feelings of self harm for you and finding a way to manage the feelings without resorting to self harm. In addition, the support of family and friends can really help to overcome self harm. Talk to the people around you and build a network of people you can rely on if you need a place to turn.

If you feel that you or anybody around you may be experiencing self harm, please seek support from your primary care doctor. They can put you in touch with the correct support services for you. If you feel like you are an immediate danger to yourself or to anybody around you then please visit your local emergency centre for immediate intervention.