Self-harm describes a wide range of behaviours that people use to cope with difficult feelings and distressing life experiences. These behaviours may include cutting, burning, scalding, banging or scratching one’s own body, pulling one's own hair or swallowing poisonous substances or objects. The majority of people who self-harm have no intention of ending their life. Most people who self-harm do so to manage their feelings.
Generally speaking, someone who self-harms isn’t trying to commit suicide. A person who is suicidal is desperate to never feel anything again, whereas the person who self-harms is only trying to cope with and living with difficult feelings. Self-harm is the mask to shield oneself from having to digest distressing feelings; almost a preventative mechanism rather than a coping one.
Reasons for self harming
- to release tension or frustration, or express anger
- to substitute emotional for physical pain,
- self-blame and self-loathing.
- to be able to “feel something” when feeling emotionally disconnected (or dissociated), or sometimes
- to induce dissociation to avoid aversive emotion as is common in the case of abuse or trauma
- strong feelings of anxiety or depression
- emotional numbness (feeling physical pain is ‘better’ than feeling nothing)
- a response to physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
- post-traumatic stress disorder