Some people have no idea why they self-harm. Some people hear the word and are scared to talk about it, others are scared to say it.
The reality for most is that self-harm is a way of expressing distress, deep distress; a way of communicating how much hurt is inside, like a very loud scream that happens inside. I’ve heard it described as being “a way I can communicate stuff that words cant say”.
After someone has harmed themselves, they often report feeling like they are more able to cope with life, shit and feel somehow better.
The first thing that generally springs to people’s minds when they hear self-harm is someone cutting themselves. That’s one action, but not everyone harms themselves in this way. Some burn themselves, others will take drug overdoses, punch and smack themselves. We believe that self-harm also includes problems with lack of eating or purposefully neglecting immediate health (kind of like not looking after your own emotional or physical needs). Self-harm is not always obvious.
But don’t misunderstand, this isn’t a judgment, it’s a coping mechanism, admittedly there are healthier and safer ones, but its still a coping mechanism.
Everyone has their own way of ‘letting off steam’ for instance… a cigarette, a glass of wine, a pint, screaming into a pillow. It’s the same principle with those that self-harm, it’s like the steam comes out through the cut or the release valve.
If someone is holding a tone of emotional pain that’s too hard to deal with, then cutting for instance can be a release, a way of feeling pain that’s viewable. Make sense?
If someone feels like they have done wrong and should be punished, hitting themselves or not allowing themselves food or basic needs can be the penalty. Does that make sense?
If someone has had control taken away from them that’s caused pain, then burning themselves is a way of feeling pain that they are in control of. Does that make sense now?
Marks, cuts, burns, scratches, all possible signs of self-harm and usually things that need to be hidden away from prying eyes. Long sleeves, never wearing shorts, tattoo cover ups. All ways of hiding the mark.
It’s often thought that people that self-harm have gone through incredibly difficult times in their childhood and that thought is generally correct. As survivors, we find ways of dealing with the emotional pain, not all of them seen by people as healthy.
As you’ll notice throughout this site, the biggest thing to remember is that YOU have choices now, you can stop ‘self-injury’, there are other ways to heal.
If you’re cutting, one common method is to swop the blade for an ice cube. Yeah, I know it might sound stupid but try it. You might be surprised at the familiar sensation. If you need something visual then use coloured liquids in the ice tray.
For those that are biting (that was my way), then replace your arm, hand, knee for something else. Lollypop stick, apple, banana, even chewing gum. You still get that bite!
For further information and support, Male Survivors Partnership have teamed up with Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation who have produced a range of superb self help guides covering a range of mental health issues and subjects. The publications we thought were suitable for this page include:
- Obsessions and Compulsions
- Self Harm
To download a copy of any of the Self Help Guides click here