Understanding self harm

What is self harm?

Self harming is a common problem, and most of us have at some time acted in some way which is harmful to our body, for example by smoking, drinking too much or overeating.

However, sometimes people feel the need to injure themselves in a more deliberate way. Anyone who’s either currently harming themselves in this way, or who’s concerned that they may do so in the near future should seek immediate help.

Self harming is a coping mechanism, a way of dealing with and expressing deep emotional distress. There are many different ways in which this can manifest, and among the most common are:

  • cutting oneself
  • deliberate overdosing on alcohol or tablets
  • burning or branding oneself
  • punching oneself, or banging one’s head or limbs
  • skin picking/tearing
  • hair-pulling (trichotillomania)

Self harming isn’t a suicide attempt (although, particularly with cutting and overdosing, immediate medical attention may be required). Nor is it attention seeking or perversely pleasurable. It’s a part of the mind doing the best it can to deal with a situation which it doesn’t understand and for which it can find no other remedy.

What makes people self harm?

Many people who harm themselves do so to release uncomfortable internal feelings. Doing it provides quick relief from the build-up of tension, anxiety, stress and panic. Self harming may reduce these uncomfortable feelings and provide a temporary sense of control in life, a sense of calm and space in which to think more clearly. It’s a coping mechanism – to some a quick fix and to others, whose life has become intolerable, the only way they can see of coping.

For some it’s a way of cleansing, to get out feelings of guilt and shame. For others, it’s a way of confirming their existence, a way of feeling alive – a contrast to the deadness and numbness they feel on the inside.

There are many reasons why people may self harm: bullying or discrimination, physical or sexual abuse, low self esteem, a difficult home situation, homelessness, feeling unloved or neglected, self-loathing (often for having harmed oneself in the first place).

When you have self harmed

When the feelings have become intolerable and you have self harmed, there are some very important things you need to do to stop the situation getting worse.

  • Control any bleeding – if you can’t, or if you’ve lost a lot of blood, seek immediate medical help
  • Keep any wounds clean and free from infection
  • Run any burns under a cold tap to take the heat out of the tissue
  • Do NOT put ice on a burn
  • Use lint free cloth to cover the wound or, ideally, proper medical dressings if you have them available
  • If you’ve taken tablets, seek immediate medical help
  • Take any remaining tablets and the bottle with you when you go to hospital or to your GP.

What can be done to help?

There are a number of things which can be done ‘in the moment’ when you feel the urge to self harm. For example:

  • rather than punching yourself, punch a pillow/cushion or scream into it
  • rather than cutting yourself, draw on the area with a washable marker, or gently rub in some soothing cream
  • choose to postpone the harm, just for fifteen minutes
  • write down, as best you can, what you’re feeling about yourself, someone else or even the whole world, or what you want to do to yourself and why.

It’s also very important to realise that, however bad the situation may seem now, it is possible significantly to improve it, and even to resolve the issues permanently so that the self harming behaviour is no longer necessary.

The role of therapy

The first step in dealing with any problem is to understand what’s caused it. It’s usually not possible do this in the conscious mind – if it was, people would be able to just ‘logic’ their problems away.

Trained and skilled therapists, like those at Wellbeing Consultancy, can help you access those parts of the unconscious mind which are responsible for the self harming behaviour. We can help those parts learn to express themselves in other, more positive ways than self harming. We can also help you to heal the inner hurt which lead to that behaviour in the first place.

When you’re looking for a hypnotherapist in Basingstoke to help you with self harming issues, the patient, supportive and non-judgemental therapists at Wellbeing Consultancy can help you achieve more than you ever thought possible.


Additional information, help and resources can be found in many places, for example at:

Hypnotherapy and complementary therapy basingstokeAbout The Author

Nigel Skinner is a hypnotherapist based in Basingstoke, Hampshire. His ‘Wellbeing Consultancy’ practice uses therapeutic techniques such as hypnotherapy, Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Reiki, and many more.

To find out more about Nigel’s work you can visit his GoToSee profile page here


You can visit www.hypnotherapistbasingstoke.com

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