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Self Harm

What is self harm?

Self harm is when someone intentionally causes harm to their body as a way of managing overwhelming emotions and distress. Sometimes when people self harm this can be linked to suicidal feelings but mostly self harm tends to have other functions for the person such as self punishment, communication of unbearable distress and a way of decreasing emotional arousal by focusing on physical pain.

Some forms of self harm are listed below:

  • Cutting or severely scratching your skin
  • Burning or scalding yourself
  • Hitting yourself or banging your head
  • Punching things or throwing your body against walls and hard objects
  • Sticking objects into your skin
  • Intentionally preventing wounds from healing
  • Taking overdoses with tablets or toxic chemicals

There are many underlying reasons for which people self harm. Self harm is also often linked to anxiety, depression and past trauma. Whilst in the moment self harm might feel like an effective strategy, the relief that comes from it doesn’t last very long. Self harm is strongly related to suicide with over half of people who die of suicide having a prior history of self-harm. If are currently engaging in self harming behaviours, it might be useful to confide in your GP about your emotional difficulties and consider what forms of help might be available to you.

Treatment for self harm

The main treatment for self harm is talking therapy with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) being the most effective therapeutic approaches for this difficulty. The way therapy tends to target self harm is by teaching the person new effective coping strategies for managing their feelings so that self harm no longer feels like the only option.

Underlying psychological issues that might make someone vulnerable to adopting self harm as a coping strategy might subsequently be further explored using other therapeutic approaches such as schema therapy or cognitive analytic therapy. The psychologists at The Chelsea Psychology Clinic all have expertise in the management and treatment of self harm.