Self-harm is when one intentionally hurts themselves as a way of dealing with difficult and complicated feelings, painful memories of overwhelming situations and experiences. Sometimes the person who is causing harm to themselves does not truly understand why and that is perfectly valid. There may be several reasons that people self-harm, some describe it to be as a way of gaining control, having something to rely on, turning the emotional into the physical, stopping feelings of numbness and disconnect etc.

It is important to note that commonly following self harm there may be a sense of release, however, this is very short lived as the cause of this distress is unlikely to have gone away. Self-harm can easily become something that is addictive so it is important to tackle as soon as possible.

Self harm is not strictly physical harm done to oneself, some may put themselves in situations where they are in harms way, be it emotionally or physically, as a form of punishment or any of the reasons listed above. 

It can be difficult to identify whether a loved one may be indulging in self harm and it is important to approach this subject with care and a sense of understanding. If you believe a friend or relative is self-harming look out for signs of the following:

  • Unexplained cuts, bruises or burns- usually on the wrists, arms, thighs or chest
  • Keeping themselves fully covered irrespective of the weather
  • Pulling out hair
  • Signs of alcohol or drug misuse
  • Expressing a want to end it all or not go on
  • Becoming withdrawn 
  • Changes in eating habits or becoming more secretive about eating
  • Unusual weight loss or weight gain
  • Signs of depression: low mood, tearfulness, lack of motivation or interest in anything
  • Signs of low self esteem: self loathing, blaming themselves for any problems, thinking they are unworthy