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.
|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 About.com|
|SAFE Alternatives Self Abuse Finally Ends|
|WoundedWings.org.uk 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|
|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|
|Special Report - Suicide|
|Reach Out - addressing youth suicide (Aus)|
The Hurt Yourself Less Workbook (Amazon)
Bodily Harm The Breakthrough Treatment Program for Self Injurer
What's the Harm? A book for young people
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