An app to help you reduce self-harm
What is self-harm?
TRIGGER WARNING! This page contains information about self-harm which may bring up difficult feelings.
Self-harm is when people hurt themselves on purpose, usually as a way of coping with or communicating overwhelming or distressing feelings. Self-harm should be seen as a symptom of distress or a sign that something is wrong. Young people who self-harm often say this helps to release the build-up of difficult feelings or to express intense emotions. However, self-harm only provides a temporary relief and in the long run can make people feel worse.
There are many ways that people self-harm. When people talk about self-harm they normally mean cutting, however burning, pulling out hair, scratching and picking at skin, causing bruises, hitting walls or head-banging are also common forms of self-harm. Over-dosing on tablets and swallowing poisons or sharp objects are serious forms of self-harm.
Self-harm is most common in young people aged 11 – 25yrs. However, it is hard to tell how many people self-harm as it is often very private. Research suggests around 10 – 15% of young people in the UK regularly self-harm, and while it is more common in young women, rates are increasing among young men. Around 25,000 young people are admitted to hospital each year due to the severity of their injuries.
In the media self-harm is often linked to suicide and in some serious cases this may be true, but it is important to understand that most young people who self-harm are trying to make themselves feel better and it is normally a way of coping or asking for help.
What causes people to self-harm?
People don’t always know why they self-harm and there may not be a single cause or reason. Some people self-harm when they are feeling very strong emotions, such as sadness, anger, anxiety, loneliness, self-hate, guilt or tension. These can become overwhelming and self-harm provides a release and can help people feel better temporarily.
For others self-harm is a way of expressing their emotions or asking for support, for some it is about gaining control when they feel that other things in their life are out of their control, and for a few people self-harming is a way of punishing themselves or expressing guilt or shame. Sometimes people in distress can feel ‘numb’, like a ‘zombie’ or disconnected from the world and self-harm is a way of feeling ‘real’ or ‘alive’ again.
Some people who self-harm are experiencing mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, anorexia or psychosis, but this is often not the case and self-harm is not a mental health diagnosis in itself. However, overcoming underlying problems such as these can be key to overcoming self-harm. Other things that might make someone more at risk of self-harm include a difficult family life, being bullied, being abused, questioning gender or sexuality, low self-esteem, a physical health problem, someone close to you being ill or dying, being under a lot of stress or feeling isolated and alone.