Self-Harm, Deliberate Self Harm, Intentional Self-Harm, including such things as Self-Abuse, Self-Neglect, Self-Injury, – which ever label or terminology you prefer or are used to – is , in its most simplest of explanations, a way of coping with, or expressing emotional pain or deep distress.
Although to some it may seem totally illogical and indeed counterintuitive it is recognized by most professionals working within the field of mental health and thankfully there is now a growing number of resources where those who struggle with this can seek help.
Although the act of self-harming can, in some circumstances, be seen to be affording a certain level of relief it is now widely recognized, even by those who do self-harm, that this relief is temporary and short-lived at best and also creates additional problems rather than addressing the core issues which lead to this act or behaviour.
Most people who do self-harm, do so in secret or try to conceal their actions either due to their own misunderstanding of what is happening or indeed as a result of some feeling of shame or a fear that no-one will understand why they are doing it and thus will treat them badly.
In fact doing so only adds to the problem and places additional burdens on the person already struggling with this. Thankfully professional, safe and discreet and/or confidential help is now available and I would strongly recommend that anyone who is struggling with self-harm makes use of the help available either in their area or indeed through a reputable online recourse.
Let us be very clear about this. What is happening to you is not as strange or uncommon as you think and no matter what you feel about yourself you are worth the help that is available and can conquer this. Additionally, hiding who you are or what is happening is placing untold additional stress on you and can have a serious impact on your self-worth, your relationships and many other aspects of your life.
As someone who has struggled with this and who is thankfully now in a position where I am able to combat it I can assure you that there is hope and I encourage you to confide in someone you trust and where possible to seek confidential professional help.
As with most things related to mental health or mental illness there are of course a lot of myths out there concerning self-harm and so here are just some of them along with the relevant facts….
Facts and Myths
Myth: People who self-harm are just seeking attention!
Fact: Generally speaking people who self-harm do so in secret. For someone who suffers from self-harm, expressing or sharing this fact can be extremely difficult. Often because of the fear and/or shame and very often as a result of this very same misunderstanding/myth. Understanding this is a very real step in dealing with it correctly.
Myth: People who self-harm do so to manipulate others!
Fact: The truth is that whilst it is possible that this may sometimes (albeit very seldom) be the case, the plain simple fact is that this is the exception to the rule so to speak. Let’s remember that generally speaking people who self-harm do so in secret. However, even in a situation where this is the case, the more healthy approach is not to focus on the method chosen as much as to consider why that person is feeling the need to do this.
Myth: People who self-harm aren’t really that serious or their problems that serious if they don’t hurt themselves really badly.
Fact: As strange as it may sound, Self-Harm is not about harming yourself but about coping. Additionally it would very wrong to believe that people who self-harm want to do so. Very often it is seen as the only way to cope and let us not forget that it is fundamentally counter-intuitive and thus the need to inflict harm to oneself in order to cope is very often accompanied with the intuition not to harm oneself. Therefore the severity of the harm cannot be seen as an indication of the severity of the difficulties faced.
Myth: Self-Harm is something that only teenagers do and mostly just teenage girls.
Fact: Self-Harm covers many different forms and is neither gender nor age specific.
Myth: Self-Harm is all about cutting isn’t it.
Fact: No not at all. Cutting is in fact just one form of self-harm and whilst it may be the one that the media seems to focus on there are in fact many other forms of it.
Myth: People who Self-Harm just want to commit suicide but can’t bring themselves to do it.
Fact: To say that no-one who suffers from self-harm ever wants to commit suicide or to die would be just as inaccurate as to say that everyone who suffers from self-harm does want to commit suicide or to die. The truth is that for many self-harm is a coping mechanism used in order to survive.
Myth: I lived with or knew someone who used to self-harm so I know all about self-harm.
Fact: That is the same as saying I knew a brain surgeon so I know all about brain surgery. The fact is that you don’t. Whilst it is true that you may have witnessed part of it or even experienced some of the pain, concerns and frustrations experienced by someone caring for a person who self-harms, it does not make you an expert and there is in fact a whole myriad of reasons why folk self-harm just as there are multiple ways in which folk do so.
Myth: Once you start to Self-Harm it will be with you for life.
Fact: Whilst there are many underlying reasons for someone choosing to Self-Harm, in many ways it is often chosen, whether consciously or sub-consciously, as a way of coping. It is without doubt not the best way of coping and indeed other better ways of coping and indeed addressing the issues causing this response are available. Freedom from this is therefore possible.
Myth: Self-Harm is not a recognized condition or disorder.
Fact: Self-Harm is indeed recognized nowadays and there is a growing amount of professional help out there.