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Self-harm is a deliberate injury inflicted by a person on their own body, and is a symptom of underlying psychological distress. It can be associated with mental illness, eating disorders or a history of abuse.
There is a variety of reasons why people self-harm and many individuals are unaware why they do so. The common belief why people self-harm is as a way for expressing pent-up emotions and feelings whereas for other people it is a way of dealing with a specific problem.
In the majority of cases, self-harm is carried out due to difficulties in childhood or adolescence but self-harming can be associated with:
Isolation e.g. from a loved one
Self-harm is a display of distress and not a way of seeking attention. Those who self-harm will often talk of feeling numb or detached from the real world. Some people self-harm as a way to remove themselves from reality while others do so to stay connected and feel alive.
The common symptom of self-harm is unexplained injuries to the body such as cuts, burns or bruises typically on the wrists, forearms, thighs or chest. Someone who self-harms will go to great lengths to conceal injuries by wearing clothes which cover the damage or harming in areas of the body that are easily concealed.
Self-harm is typically a symptom of an underlying mental health condition such as depression or psychological and emotional problems such as low self-esteem, distress, self-loathing or grief.
Self-harm is typically carried out in secret and if the individual doesn't want to seek help themselves it can be difficult for family and friends to recognise the problem and encourage them to visit a GP.
On seeking help, a GP will discuss the problem with you and try to identify the underlying cause for self-harming. This will usually require a referral to a mental health specialist.