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A-Z Mental Health Conditions

Self Harm Links          Suicide Links        Books

(The following article, by Jayne, refers to non-suicidal self harm behaviour.  See below for Suicide Links)

Self Harm, also known as self injury, self mutilation and self inflicted violence is rapidly escalating and is becoming more understood.   Whilst still something of a taboo subject, it is becoming more acceptable as people find the courage to seek medical help.

Many medical professionals see Self Harm (SH) as a cry for help, attention seeking or manipulative behaviour.  In fact, it is more a coping strategy to deal with over-whelming feelings and emotions.  In this way it can be related to alcohol and drug abuse, or physical violence towards property or others.

How many people have slammed their fist against a wall as a result of frustration or anger?  Probably the majority of the population.   In self harmers, this is magnified, hurting one's own body becomes a means of release.  Self harmers often report a feeling of calm and lifting of spirits after the event of self harm.

Self harm usually begins in adolescence although it may start in early childhood or in later life.  It takes many forms:  cutting and burning the skin the most popular.  Also involved include punching, excessive scratching, removal of hair, and interfering with the healing of wounds.

It is important to establish that most SHs do not have suicidal intentions, it is more a survival strategy, a life sustaining act.  Medical professionals often misconstrue this as parasuicide and therefore treat self harmers in an inappropriate manner.

Do not give up.  There are many specialist units and self help books available.  Several of these may be loaned from Self Help groups.

The most common parts of the body to receive acts of self harm are the legs, arms and chest - these are most accessible - although any part of the body is a potential site for self harming behaviour.

Self harm varies considerably in frequency and severity.  If the injuries are not severe, people can often keep their behaviour secret.  Unfortunately, self harm is an addictive-like behaviour, and frequency and severity may increase as time passes.

Eating disorders often co-exist with self harming behaviour.  This can be attributed to an obsession with body image, and the need to control oneself and one's emotions.

There has been some research done explaining the possibility of physiological causes for SH, relating to levels of endorphins, serotonin and dopamine in the brain.  However, this is in its very early stages and most attribute self harm to a misplaced coping strategy.

Self harm is often related to childhood abuse:  physical, sexual or emotional.  In some cases, none of these are present, so the origins of self harming behaviour are not wholly understood.

Many self harmers have what is known as 'biological fragility' or 'emotional hypersensitivity' making them less resilient to conflicts within their own, and others' world.  Through workshops and self help guides, resilience can be built up, making life easier to cope with and thus reducing the frequency and severity of self harm.

A Personal Account



Guernsey Information & Support Groups
A Personal Account
Bristol Crisis Centre for Women      Helpline 0117 925 1119 (Friday & Saturday 9pm-12.30am)
Bristol Crisis Service - Self Harm Info
Self Harm Links Page    over 950 links
Secret Shame - Self Injury
Alternatives to Self-Injury
Self Injury - Information & Resources
Self-Injury at
SAFE  Alternatives   Self Abuse Finally Ends   Self Help for Self Harm
Self Harm Resources - when you want to self-harm
Safeline - Survivors of Sexual Abuse
Young People & Self-Harm
The Basement Project        Factsheet
Women & Self Harm
Further Links
Self-Injury, Abuse & Trauma Resource Directory
Self-Injury and Related Issues
Self-Harm Support  Forum
Another Support Forum
See A-Z page for info & links on associated conditions, such as Anxiety, OCD, Low Self Esteem, Borderline Personality Disorder, Eating Disorders etc


Suicide - Read this First
About Suicide - Crisis Intervention
Suicide   NetDoctor
Special Report - Suicide
Reach Out - addressing youth suicide (Aus)


Bristol Crisis Centre for Women Publications

Hurt Yourself Less Workbook

The Hurt Yourself Less Workbook  (Amazon)

The Scarred Soul

Bodily Harm   The Breakthrough Treatment Program for Self Injurer

Women and Self Harm

Bodies Under Siege

Healing the Hurt Within

Teenage Suicide and Self Harm

The Self Harm Help Book

What's the Harm?     A book for young people

Working with Self Injury:  A Practical Guide

Women who Hurt Themselves

Understanding Self Harm

See Books page for books on associated conditions such as Eating Disorders, Anxiety, Low Self Esteem, Borderline Personality Disorder etc

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I do not endorse any of the above links - I have not checked the whole content of each site.  In most cases I have only visited their Home Page


31 July 2002