What is Self-Harm? Why is it happening? What can I do to help?

What is Self-Harm? Why is it happening? What can I do to help?

By admin Posted On November 13, 2017 4:01 pm 0 Comment

Have you just found out that someone you care about is hurting themselves intentionally (also known as self-harm)? Or do you suspect they may be? Please read on, hopefully I can support you.

I Imagine this is a mine field for you, and a battling field for the person wrangling with this addictive and destructive behaviour.

Perhaps you are wondering why this person who you care for dearly is self-harming? For now, perhaps picture a cloud, I’ll get back to this shortly!  

What is Self-Harm?

We hear the word so much in the media. In short, it cannot be defined as one thing. Feeling an urge to understand more about self-harm to support the person you care about is a special step. Self-harm, in its briefest form is…

  • Self-inflicted injuries such cutting the skin with sharp objects, knives
  • Poisoning, for example drinking bleach, other harmful substances, nail varnish etc.
  • Binge drinking and blacking out, severe vomiting, engaging in risky situations
  • Burning or singing Hair, burning skin with acids or fire
  • Dangerous promiscuity: Having sexual contact in an unsafe way, unprotected sex with unknown people, in places to cause possible damage to themselves
  • Pulling own hair
  • Hitting / punching self
  • Restricting food

Are any of the above behaviours happening with someone you care about? If so, read on. Maybe you have just found out, maybe feeling shocked and scared.

Why? Why? Why?

As a mother, my worst nightmares begin with the thought of my children intentionally hurting themselves! As a Counsellor who has supported people who self-harm and those who are caring for those people, I come from a place of experience and care when I say…

  • You are not alone in your fears.
  • Be kind to YOU, no one is responsible for another’s actions.
  • Supporting someone involves supporting & caring for you first.
  • Easy to blame yourself but it is NOT your fault.

Self-harm can hold a firm grip and at times may be a comforting escape for your loved one. Reflect on how difficult this may be for you to understand and accept? Thinking about your own judgements, limits and feelings around this will help you;

Now, back to that mysterious cloud I mentioned earlier. Only your loved one can find the answer behind why they self-harm! Frustrating? You know a cloud can change, get bigger, or disappear for a while or perhaps all of a sudden flood and pour rain for hours. Feelings & emotions can do this too. My experience tells me that these overwhelming feelings can sometimes be the reason behind the behaviour. Like a cloud, there is no definite pattern as such. Like a cloud, when sadness, fear, anger, hate, confusion become overwhelming, the feelings need a release. It may be, for the person self-harming, like a rain cloud, hurting themselves provides the rain. The painful feelings are then emptied from the mind. However, like a cloud, this is temporary. This may be the reason why self-harming can be a very addictive cycle. One that is truly hard to stop. At times, it becomes a coping mechanism for people trying to eradicate emotions that are very painful or causing stress.

What can you do?

  • The first step is to let the person know you are there for them.
  • Tell them you are not judging them.
  • Let them know somehow that when they are ready, you will listen.
  • Do not try & control their behaviour.

How difficult are the above things for you to practice? I imagine the self-harm is causing you pain too, seeing the person you care about hurting themselves is far from easy! Practice as much as you can, as attempting to control them may push them further away. Your loved one is battling with an addictive behaviour. A common feeling associated with self-harm is loneliness. They can often isolate themselves, trying to keep the behaviour a secret and often they may feel great shame.  

How can Counselling Help?

Seeking counselling when they feel ready can be a healthy step. Try to understand that counselling is a therapeutic process where your loved one has a confidential space to express & explore their feelings. This works at their pace. Counselling can be short term & long-term yet it is not a quick fix.

Providing resources to the person who self-harms may help. Perhaps if they can’t talk about it, write it on a little caring note and put it somewhere they will see it. Finding an envelope with a note may be reassuring, let them know you are there when they are ready, you care for them. Think about writing some websites and telephone numbers on the note, where they can access free support too:

The Samaritans: 116 123 (UK)

Freephone number 24 hours from landlines & mobiles

ChildLine: 0800 1111

Young people up until the age of 18 years. Freephone number & online chat/e-mail

In my next article, I will be talking through some coping strategies that can support people who have decided they no longer wish to self-harm. I will also cover some useful alternatives to self-harming to aid the release of intense feelings.

Accepting that we don’t know the answers is really important, only your loved one can learn to manage their feelings. Thank you for reading & keep in touch, Feel free to comment below.

Warm Wishes

Lucy Marie Fenwick Pink Raindrops Counselling MBACP & MYPD

Registered Member of the British Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy

Registered Member of the British Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy Young Peoples Division

Level One Theraplay Course Graduate.

Mobile: 07553302654 E:mail: pink-raindrops-therapy@outlook.com

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