Welcome to The Self Harm Information Package. This thread is here to give you a bit of a guide about self harm, for either yourself or someone you know, to hopefully help you to understand things a little bit better. Also, to realise that you are not alone in what you are going through.
After some basic questions and attitudes are cleared up, there are also some practical things here you can do regarding self harm to help you beat the urges.
Self harm is when a person deliberately causes harm to themselves. This can be done in a variety of ways, but is most commonly known of as cutting or burning. The self harm alters the way the person feels, and can be used to express emotions, punish oneself or to feel "real" or validate emotional pain.
Self harm comes in many forms, the most common being cutting or burning, but also hitting, biting, pinching, swallowing pills (overdosing), hair pulling, starvation, among others.
One in Ten teenagers is said to have self-injured, and the number is rising. ^
The vast majority of members I have spoken to here, did not even know about self harm when they started. So why do we start hurting ourselves if we're not acutely aware of it?
Self harm serves a purpose in us. And it is likely that at the time we began self harming, we were going through some serious emotional stress that we had no idea how to cope with. High tension, high anxiety and/or high depression levels can all contribute to the feelings that have us wanting to self harm.
When most people start, they are looking for a release of these intense physical emotions. Because self harm [rather unfortunately] provides this release, when done once we remember it works to do that, and over time can begin to serve different purposes.
Problem with this is that self harm is an unhealthy coping mechanism, and there are many other things that can provide the release we need. And when you're ready to recover, this is what you need to focus on.
Self harm, as mentioned above, serves a purpose to you. When you self harm, you do so for a reason, and you expect a response from your body. Stopping can be difficult because often you do not replace the behaviour with a healthy one, and the reason you self harm is not treated. If this is the case, the urges to self harm will continue to get stronger.
These reasons for self harm include:
- Release / Validate Emotional Pain.
Extreme emotional pain and intense feelings can be difficult to feel, tolerate and also express - even to ourselves. Identifying emotions can also be very difficult to do sometimes, and understand what they mean isn't easy. However, self harming can make this clearer to us because we know that when we do harm, we are in some form of pain, it is validated and understandable to us.
Self harm can provide a sense of control to someone who might feel their life is completely out of control. With so many things go on around us it can be really scary and daunting to feel just so out of control, but to some the idea of controlling what happens to their body & with their emotions can be comforting.
When we are feeling emotionally of physically numb [as can often occur with depression] we may turn to self harm to bring about some physical sensation in our body and emotionally. Sometimes the emotional pain of self harm can be better than none at all.
With a low self esteem, it is often easy to believe we are worthy of punishment for something we have, or haven't, done. Self harm can therefore be used as a method of punishment for ourselves, and to leave us a "reminder" of how bad we feel we are.
There are more than these, but these are some common ones. What we need to do then, when we're considering stopping self harm is discover what else was can do to relieve the urges based on why we self harm. Some ideas are discussed below.
If Self Harm is serving a purpose, what can I do to stop it and why should I stop?
As discussed above, self harm can serve several purposes. These need to be addressed when you are considering getting support & recovering from this, and will often be addressed by counsellors/psychologists etc.
Instead of using self harm to release/validate emotional pain, there are many other things we can do. Physical things are really good for this, such as going for a jog/walk, playing a sport etc. It doesn't have to be that hard though, even something small like jumping up and down, scribbling madly on some paper, punching a pillow etc are really good for physically releasing the emotional pain. Loud music is great, too!
To validate yourself, the best thing you can do is talk to someone else or to yourself, with positive self talk such as "I understand I am feeling difficult emotions, it is okay for me to feel "x and y" because of "z". And then try and release the emotions through a physical outlet such as exercise, writing/art/scribbling, putting your hand under cold water, holding ice etc.
If you self harm because you're wanting more control over your life, start focussing on things you *do* have control over, even if only small things. You can dress in what you want to, style your hair, listen to some music. Take some time out to do something you are in control of - even if that is just drawing a line and controlling that. Remember as much as you can control your emotions to go negative with self harm - you can control them to go positive, too.
If you're after the sensation of producing feelings because you are numb, do something that will produce feelings but is not as dangerous as self harm. For example, run your hand under cold water, have a cold shower, put some lotion on your skin & really notice it there, lie in the grass, stand in the sun/rain, run until you get breathless etc. There's many things you can do to provide yourself some physical feelings, and many things you can do to provide yourself some emotional feelings in a good way, such as watching a funny movie, listening to great music, etc.
And if you're seeking punishment from your self harm, then you really need to speak to someone about what is going on for you in your head and your cognitions. It's highly unlikely you need punishment for anything, instead your low self-esteem is telling you this. Be rational about this, if someone else was in your place, would you punish them like this?
Why should I stop, though?
Self harm is an unhealthy coping mechanism. It is useful in a sense, but not the most useful thing you can use, and will eventually harm you more than just physically. If you continue to use an unhealthy coping mechanism for too long, you will struggle to eventually learn new coping mechanisms that are healthy & long lasting to deal with your emotions.
Of course, recovery from self harm can only be done when you feel ready, like everything else.
Last edited by Snow White. : 28-12-2008 at 10:58 AM.
Over time repeated self-harming behaviours can become an addiction. The brain releases chemicals when we harm, endorphins, which can reduce negative feelings. Also, the original reason [see above] that we are harming will sometimes be met, and when it meets a need we feel a short sense of relief.
That said, self harm is possible to recover from but it does require professional help, support, and will not always be done in the first attempt.
Self harm, for the majority, is done is secret. People are often ashamed that they are self harming and can be very quiet and hidden about including covering up scars with jumpers and jackets even in the heat, and lying about how scars came about.
Sometimes, though, people who are suffering with being alone and rejected may self harm to get attention. This isn't necessary wrong on their behalf - attention is something we need as human beings, moreso when we are stuggling with emotional pain. Asking for help can sometimes be really difficult and sometimes self harm can be used in the hope that someone will one day notice the pain we are going through.
Self harm should never be ignored or shrugged of as being "attention seeking & emo." Self harm is serious, no matter what the motivations are.
Eventually, time may come where you want your parents [or someone close to you] to know about the pain you are going through. And while it might be scary, embarrassing or difficult to tell people, ultimately the more support you have through what you're suffering, the sooner you can begin to heal.
Depending on how you know someone, you can tell them either face to face or writing a letter.
Letters can be good in that you can clearly write out what needs to be said, and state it how you like before it is given to them. However, discussion will eventually be had after that and you need to be ready for it.
When telling your parents, keep these things in mind:
They will no doubt feel shocked, and perhaps feel guilt from not noticing, sadness that you're suffering, and maybe anger at not being told sooner. However these emotions will subside and try not to be too upset at how they initially react.
Explain why you're telling them, and reinforce you are not blaming them for this.
Understand they will want to ask questions, and be prepared for it. The more they know, the less they will fear. Questions such as "Why?" "How?" "Where?" and "What with?" are common. They may even ask to see your scars, it is at your discretion if you show them or not. If you can provide them with links/hotlines/books they can get support from, this is also helpful. As much information you can provide them about this, the more they will know and understand.
Pick an appropriate place and time for the discussion, where you will not but rushed or interrupted.
Beginning the conversation can be difficult. Pluck up all your courage and say something like "I have something important I'd like to discuss" or "Can we please talk for a bit? I have something to tell you..".
If you see a counsellor, you may like them to help explain it to your parents, and most are happy to have them sit in on an appointment and do this.
And remember, no matter how bad it seems before it's never as bad as we expect. You may even find it helpful for you to get more support, such as a doctor or counsellor, and may find they can help you through some of your struggles.
Yes. Even if you don't think you need medical attention on your injuries, self harm is a sign that there is something wrong in your life, or unhelpful about your coping skills or other. If you see a doctor, you can discuss these things and hopefully get you the help & support you need to work through it.
This might include a counsellor or psychologist. Helpful information about seeing doctors can be found in Seeking Professional Help.
I am under 16, will a doctor/counsellor have to tell someone about self harm?
When discussing self harm with a professional, there isn't one set rule that covers confidentiality, so it is best to ask your doctor/counsellor and be sure you understand how their confidentiality works. All staff working for the NHS have a legal duty to follow the NHS Code of Practice on Confidentiality. This means they must ask for your consent before passing information to anyone else - this applies to whatever age you are.
If you're aged 16 or 17, the law sees you as an adult when it comes to confidentiality. Therefore, if you're 16 and you want a health professional to keep your treatment confidential then that should be respected.
However, there are exceptions to this rule where they have to let your parents, guardian or GP know something you've passed on to them. This is normally when they feel you don't have 'mental capacity', i.e. when you may not be able to make certain decisions because they feel you won't understand the advice, or your physical or mental health is likely to suffer unless you receive treatment or support.
This also applies where there are issues around child protection; when they are worried you may harm yourself more seriously than you meant to; if you're expressing suicidal feelings; you're being sexually or physically abused; or your self-harm will lead to permanent damage. If they decide to contact someone else, you should be told that they are going to do that first.
Self harm can actually reduce a persons anxiety (in the short term) and can reduce suicidal feelings, as it is a coping mechanism. If someone is self harming, it does not necessarily mean they want to commit suicide or that there harming is an attempt to end their life.
There is, however, a risk factor between people who self harm and people who attempt suicide. Self harm is a fairly strong indicator that there is something going wrong in a persons life, and should always be taken seriously.
Last edited by Snow White. : 28-12-2008 at 08:52 AM.
When you're considering recovery, you are no doubt aware that it will not be easy. Anything that can make stopping self harm easier for you is a must, and it's not too difficult to do.
Firstly, try and sort out why it is that you are self harming. As above, there are many reasons, and if you can sort out what it is that you are using self harm for, then you can begin to replace it with a healthy behaviour.
When removing self harm from your life, it needs to be replaced with one or more new behaviours, so that you can still meet your needs.
Be aware of when you're feeling down and sad, and listen to what it is you are wanting. Be kind and gentle to yourself, try not to punish yourself when you do feel urges, if you slip up, or otherwise, as all of this is a learning process for you to get stronger.
Recovery from self harm will be easier if you have support around you. If family, friends, professionals or anyone you trust is aware that you are working harm to stop self harming, they can work with you and support you through, and also congratulate you as you reach milestones and overcome difficult times.
All over the UK, there are a variety of groups and services available to help people who are struggling with self-injury, self-harm and their underlying causes. Compared with the number of people who need these services, the numbers are still small – but growing.
Who is listed here?
This list contains information about
self-help groups for self-injury (whether independent or attached to other projects)
services which specialise in self-injury
services which deal with self-injury alongside other issues.
However, if there is no group or service listed in your area, do not despair. Many other local counselling or mental health services may be familiar with self-harm as an issue.
Bristol Crisis Service for Women
Set up in 1986 to respond to the needs of women in emotional distress. We have a focus on self-injury and have carried out extensive research. We provide a range of information and publications on self-injury and training for professionals. We have specific information for young women, women from black and minority ethnic groups (information published in Bengali, Chinese, English, Punjabi and Urdu) and women in prison. Helpline: 0117 925 1119 Friday & Saturday nights 9pm – 12.30 am and Sundays 6-9pm. (The helpline has access to interpreters. Women need to be able to say in English what language they would like to speak in and give their telephone number).
Self-injury guidance and network support. Website that aims to support people who are affected by self-injury. Offer a free monthly newsletter and safe message board. www.selfharm.org
National Inquiry into Self-Harm among Young People
The UK's first major investigation into young people and self-harm. The final report, Truth Hurts is available to download from their website.
Address: Dr Marcia Brophy, Self-Harm Inquiry, Camelot Foundation, University House, 11-13 Lower Grosvenor Place, London, SW1W 0EX
Telephone : 020 7828 6085
e-mail : info@selfharmUK.org www.selfharmuk.org
National Self-Harm Network
Acute medical and psychiatric service provision is lacking in understanding and treatment of self-harm. Survivor-led organisation, founded in 1994, aims to bridge the huge gulf in understanding, and to campaign for the rights of those who live with self-harm and provide support for people who self-injure, their friends, families and workers. Leaflets and publications have been produced for individuals who self-injure and health care professionals.
Address: PO Box 7264 Nottingham NG1 6WJ
e-mail: email@example.com www.nshn.co.uk
Self-Injury and Related Issues (SIARI)
A large website offering information and support for self-injurers and others affected by self-injury. Message boards and a moderated on-line support group. www.siari.co.uk
SASH (Adult) Survivors of Abuse and Self-Harming and Information Service
SASH is a penfriend network which understands and supports adult survivors of abuse and self-harming. Our aim is to allow survivors to contact others in writing, to share thoughts and feelings so they can see and realise they are not alone. Their courage and words will offer comfort, hope and relief to others like themselves. To give back their right to receive the help and support they deserve to begin the healing process.
SASH is now free to join, but we have a small fee of £5.00 (or donation) for our newsletter, this is to cover postage and administration costs.
SAE for enquiries to:
Contact name: Linda Hill
Address: 20 Lackmore Road, Enfield, Middlesex, EN1 4PB
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.freewebs.com/sashpenfriend
Online help & telephone number for the UK, and information and games.
A new youth-oriented information website regarding mental health.
GET.gg Therapy Worksheets
Worksheets and information on a variety of topics including self harm, mood diaries, responses, and dbt based skills.
An Australian website with a lot of articles and factsheets to help you manage life's issues, including depression, suicide, eating disorders.
Helpline & information for people aged 11-19, by young people.
The Samaritans [UK]: 08457 90 90 90
LifeLine [Australia]: 13 11 14
Kids Help Line [Australia]: 1800 55 1800
Mind InfoLine [UK] 9am-5pm Weekdays: 0845 766 0163
The Cutting Warning Label
Written by Divine Amethyst Artemis
[Caution: This is triggering material]
Before you make that first cut remember. You will enjoy this. You will find the blood and pain release addictive. Even though you think you can make a few tiny cuts that aren’t deep and will heal easily, they will get deeper. They will scar. They will sometimes take months to heal. And years for the scars to fade. If you think you can limit the cutting to one area of your body think again. It will spread when you run out of skin.
Be prepared to withdraw from others and live in a constant state of shame. Even if you are the most honest person ever to live you will find yourself lying to the people you love. You will jerk back from your friends when they touch you as if their hands were dipped in poison. You will be terrified that they will feel something under the cloth of your shirt, or just because it just plain hurts so much to be touched.
Be prepared to get so out of control you fear your next cut because you don’t know how bad it will be. Just wait for 10 cuts to turn into 100... Be prepared for your entire life to revolve around cutting, and thinking about cutting, cutting and covering up cutting. And just wait until that first time you cut “too deep”. And you freak because the blood won’t stop, and you are gaping, ad you feel yourself shaking all over. You are having a panic attack and you are terrified but you can’t tell anyone. So you sit there alone, praying it will be okay and swearing you’ll never let it go this far again. But you will; and further. Don’t worry, you will learn how to take care of your cuts so that you can go deeper and deeper and avoid A and E.
You will lie to yourself and justify it when you find yourself spending £10, £20, £30 every time you go into a chemist. You will feel the flutter of your heart beat every time you go to the counter. Butterfly strips, 3 or 4 kinds of dressings, wound tape, antibiotic cream, medical tape, and scar reducers. You will tap your foot impatiently hoping the queue will move on and that no one will stare at you or wonder why you need all these things. And at the same time secretly hope that someone will notice... someone who is standing in line with an armful of the same supplies. Someone who understands. But of course that never happens.
Medical supplies won’t be the only thing you spend all your money on. Be prepared to buy a new wardrobe. Long sleeve shirts in summer colours, bracelets, wristbands, boots, gloves the list goes on and on.
You will start looking at every one in a different way. Scanning their bodies for any signs of SI, just hoping that you might meet someone like you so you don’t feel so terribly alone. You won’t even think about it as you eyes scan their wrists, arms, hoping, just hoping that you might meet someone like you. But they are not. You will see their clean arms and feel terribly ashamed and alone.
You will start doing alot of things alone. You will always have to wash your laundry in private so that no one sees the blood stains on your clothes and towels. You will always be cleaning up the blood. Scrubbing your bathroom floor, wiping the blood off your keyboard.
You won’t be able to make it through a day without cutting. Next thing you know you’re locked in a toilet cubical somewhere breaking open a scar with a sowing needle you keep in your purse for emergencies. When you get really desperate anything can be a cutting tool. Scissors, car keys, needles, even a pen. It doesn’t really matter what if you need to cut bad enough you’ll find something.
Say goodbye to the things you took for granted. Like wearing shorts or sandals, pedicures and sleeveless tops. A normal summer day at the beach or the swimming pool will become a far off memory to you.
And remember to be ready to itch. Because you will itch and itch so much that “you look like you have fleas or a skin disease”.
You will become an expert on your own body as you destroy it carefully. You will dream about cutting. You will dream about being exposed. It will haunt you day and night and take over your life. You will wish you never made that first cut because you will absolutely hate cutting; but at the same time you love it and cannot live without it.
You have been warned...
Last edited by Snow White. : 29-12-2008 at 12:10 AM.
Scars can be really hard to hide when the weather is warm, and sometimes you're going to want to hide them if you don't feel comfortable being asked questions about them.
It is also important to protect your scars from the sun, as they are very sensitive to sunburn and will damager easier than healthy skin. If you need to expose your scars, make sure you wear sunscreen.
For covering up your arms there are things like:
Tubi grips ('Ace bandages' in America I believe).
Chunky braclets, or just a lot of beaded ones.
Fish net arm bands.
Dermablend - a camouflage make up designed to cover marks and scars available in the UK (link) and the US (link).
Skin camouflage available through the Red Cross. It's similar to dermablend, but you can be referred by your GP or a consultant. Click here for more details. There are also other types of water proof cover up make up, so it shouldn't come off with sweat, though it may not endure long emersion quite so well.
For swimming - long sleeved rash tops.
Covering up your legs:
Skin coloured tights.
Fish net tights.
Board shorts - stylish and great for swimming.
Long / Knee High fashion socks - plain bright colours or stripey. Cotton ones are light and cool.
Combat trousers - light and cool to wear.
Long skirts are 'in' this year as well, they cover up quite a bit.
Scar reducing products
These take time but can have some really good results with fading red and keloid scars:
Bio oil, one of the most commonly recognized. It can be quite expensive, but you only need to use a few drops 2 or 3 times a day for it to work. I've heard that results can vary from 3 weeks to a couple of months, but it's worth doing. Click for more information.
Cocoa butter, again, well heard of and used. This also softens the scars which will help new ones to heal better. (That is, new scars, don't use any scar products on open wounds).
Vitamin E oil, use in much the same way as cocoa butter - 2 or 3 times a day, it moisturizes the skin and encourages the scar tissue to soften and heal. You can also get vitamin E capsules to burst on your skin and rub in.
Palmer's scar serum. This isn't talked about as much as the other products, so I'm not entirely sure about how well it works. If anyone has any experience, please share! Again, you use it 2 to 3 times a day, and result times vary. Click for more information.
Any products for stretch marks can help fade scars as well. There are plenty out there on the market, some cheaper than others. I actually watched a programme on TV that tested stretch mark products one week and the cheapest one was rated the most effective.
Scar reduction sheets. I know that in the UK they are available in Boots, I'm not sure of any stores in the US that sell them, but there are a few places online that sell them. Reviews for scar reduction sheets and gels.
Special thanks to Voldemort for this list. For more suggestions please see this thread.