Self Harm - How to stop self harm safely
The first thing to do if you want to stop self harm to either yourself or someone you know is to find out more about this taboo subject. This page tells you all you need to know about self harm or as it is also known, self injury as well as giving you advice and help in stopping self harming.
What is Self-harm?
Most of us engage in some form of self harm activity such as smoking, sunbathing, eating too much or too little, not exercising, having unsafe sex, binge drinking or even reckless drug taking that can ultimately end up causing some form of harm to self. However, the kind of self-harm I am talking about here is when someone deliberately and directly tries to injure their body using methods such as cutting, burning, biting,
pulling out hair, overdosing (non fatal amounts), swallowing inappropriate objects, banging their heads and sticking things in their body, (this is not an exhaustive list). This is sometimes described as self injury but for the purpose of this article I refer to these kinds of deliberate and direct attempts to injure you as self-harm.
It can feel to other people that these things are done coolly and deliberately – almost cynically. But someone who self-harms will usually do it in a state of high emotion, distress and unbearable inner turmoil. Some people plan it in advance, others do it suddenly. Some people self-harm only once or twice, but others do it regularly - it can become almost like an addiction.
Who self harms?
Self-harm can occur at any age with children as young as six reported as self-harming.
As many as one in ten young people aged 11-25 self-harms but this is likely to be an underestimation as many incidents are not reported. This equates to as many as a hundred pupils in an average size English secondary school.
Gay and bisexual people seem to be more likely to self-harm.
People who self-harm are more likely to have experienced physical, emotional or sexual abuse during childhood.
About one in three people who self-harm for the first time will do it again during the following year and about three in one hundred people who self-harm over fifteen years will actually kill themselves. This is more than fifty times the rate for people who don't self-harm. The risk increases with age and is much greater for men; suicide by young men has increased by 75 per cent in ten years
Perhaps the most shocking statistic, announced in a report by the NSPCC, comes from Northern Ireland where suicide has overtaken road accidents as the main cause of death among young people.
Why is it so hard to stop?
A lot of people who self-harm don't ask for help or even try to help themselves. In my clinical experience there are two major reasons for this.
1.The first is that although you know that it is a problem, you don't feel that you can tell anyone – so you don't talk to friends, family, or professionals. You are either afraid that people will judge you or are ashamed of what you do. All this means that you often feel like you are alone, stuck and powerless or unable to change things.
2.The second reason why people do not ask for help or try to help themselves is that they feel they are to blame and deserve to be punished or harmed. This means that they often feel guilt and self loathing or even hatred.
These feelings are powerfully linked to our thinking. At a simple level if you feel ashamed, stuck, powerless, guilty, self hatred or scared it is likely that this will lead to very negative thinking about the situation and about yourself which in turn strengthens the negative feelings. For example “I deserve to be harmed” “I can’t do anything about this it is just too bad”, “I’ll never be able to stop this”. This kind of vicious cycle keeps you stuck and needs to be broken.
Why do people self-harm?
Self-harm can help you to feel in control, and reduce uncomfortable feelings of tension and distress. Alternatively, if you feel guilty, it can be a way of punishing yourself and relieving your guilt. Either way, it can become a 'quick fix' for feeling bad.
In some ways self harming is in fact a reasonably pragmatic defence against this build up of intolerable feelings. It is the best way a person can find at that time to handle these feelings and is in this sense a coping mechanism.
What self-harming does is very much a response to this build up of intolerable feelings in that it acts like taking the valve of a pressure cooker and the intense feeling(s) is released or reduced. Many people feel alive and others feel no pain. The self injury helps them to escape from their feelings and into their body. In a way it serves as a distraction and a feeling of calm can ensue in response. In this sense it appears to work.
The problem with this is that it is a coping mechanism or it could be described as a symptom of something else and as such does not address the problem itself. People uses self-harm as a way of coping, but their situation stays the same. This may be why many people who self-harm do so for many years -even a lifetime. If self harming is to stop it is necessary to work with the underlying reason(s) that create the need to self-harm.
The good news is that there is an effective, often quick, generally simple and gentle technique that you can learn to help you to stop self-harming.
What if you don't want to stop self-harming?
It is important to remember that forcibly preventing someone from self harming could be dangerous and lead to more serious damage been caused.
If you decide that you don't want to stop self-harming it is important to:
Try to reduce the damage to your body (for example, if you cut use clean blades)
Try to keep an open mind about stopping
Try to have at least one person available that you can turn to if things get desperate
Have an alternative safe way to reduce the feelings that lead you to self-harm
If necessary, try to find a professional who will also give you support and help in a crisis. I have worked with many people who self harm both face to face and more recently through Skype.
If you would like more information about how I can help you to stop self harming wherever you live you can contact me by email at email@example.com, or by landline on 44-0151-632-4470 or mobile on 07595 020 660
If you want to stop self harming
In most cases self harm is a pragmatic response to overwhelming feelings
How would you like to learn a simple quick technique that you can use yourself and will give you a real alternative to self harming when you get to that point when the feelings are just intolerable. What's even better is that this technique will begin to help you release the feelings and thoughts that make you need to self harm in the first place. This set of techniques is called Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) or more fondly tapping.
If you would like to learn more click here