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Self-Harm. What Is Self-Harm? Part Two.

Updated on August 4, 2022

Why self-harm?

Research has found that young people who self-harm mainly do so because they feel they have no other way of coping with the problems in their lives.

Self-harm or self injury is used as a coping tool, a survival tactic and a short term problem solving strategy and there is usually a reason why people do it. It is a sign of psychological pain and emotional distress, and often goes hand in hand with eating distress, depression and anxiety. Rarely is it used as an attention-seeking ploy. Sutton (2005)

Some young people might self-harm as a way of coping with the pressures of life. These pressures can be the result of family or social pressure to conform. Many young people feel angry and frustrated when they are not able to conform or when they cannot live up to others expectations.

For a long time I self-harmed. I used to feel so wound up inside, like I would explode with emotions. There felt no way out of the situation of emotional distress I was in, other than to self-harm. It would make me feel better once I had hurt myself, but, I also felt ashamed and embarrassed about what I was doing. I do not self-harm now and urge those that do, to take care of themselves and their injuries. Keep your wounds and dressing clean and try and keep your utensils or whatever you use to hurt yourself clean. Try to find someone to talk to. Know that you are not alone and you are not abnormal for doing what you do.

Feelings of anger, fear, shame, guilt, unhappiness, helplessness and depression can build to the point where it is difficult to deal with the pain. Self-harming is a way of releasing that emotional pain. Many young people report that seeing blood takes away the emotional pain. The pain helps them to feel more alive especially when they have felt numb inside. "Young people who have experienced trauma or abuse may suffer from feelings of numbness or deadness. They may feel detached from the world and their bodies, and self-injury may be a way of feeling more connected and alive". (cited in, Young people who self-harm, Highlight no 201)

Why do people continue harming themselves?

Services for young people who self-harm seem to be inadequate and so more support services need to be developed.

There is lack of understanding about self-harm, including the issues that surround it amongst the public and professionals alike. Professionals often apply labels to explain self-harming behaviours, yet rarely address the underlying causes. They treat the symptoms but overlook the causes.

Some young people say that self-harming is a form of addictive behaviour, which can be just as difficult to give up as an addictive drug. For many, self-harming can become their only way of dealing with problems and so it becomes very difficult to stop even when it is having a very negative impact on their lives. Self-harming is also used as a form of personal power when some young people feel powerless or it feels like others are controlling what happens to them. For many young people this happens because they are often not consulted about things that could affect their lives.

Who is most likely to self-harm?

There is no such thing as a typical self-harmer and a person who self-harms can come from all walks of life and all economic brackets. People who harm themselves can also be male or female, straight, gay or bisexual, educated, uneducated, rich or poor, from any country in the world. Some people who self-harm might have a demanding job such as teachers, therapists, medical professionals, film stars, actors or athletes. Research claims the majority of self-harmer's are young women although self-harm in young men is on the increase


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