Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Catharine Douglas - Crystal Clarity Counselling MBACP
11th March, 20150 Comments
There seems to have been a lot written about self-harm in the media of late. 1st March was Self-harm Awareness Day. Different charities and organisations came together to support one another. These charities support those who self-harm and their families, loved ones and friends.
What is self-harm, and what causes it?
- Bulimia and anorexia
- Cutting or slicing ones wrists, thighs and arms, but can include any part of the body.
- Alcohol addiction.
- Drug addiction, which can include illegal drugs.
Self-harming can be a release from internal pain that the person is feeling. They may feel they have no outlet, and that self-harming is a way to relieve their feelings. It can mean they have such a lot of emotional pain, they don’t know how else to relieve it.
Those that self-harm can be suffering from:
- Lack of self-esteem and loneliness.
- Abusive childhoods.
- Sexual abuse.
Self-harm is often done in secret, and harmers go to great lengths to hide their actions. Some wear long sleeved clothes to hide the cuts on their arms. Others wear long skirts or long trousers to hide cuts on their legs.
Those who drink alcohol to excess will often drink in secret, and often hide empty bottles around the house, to be disposed of outside. They might chew gum to disguise the smell of alcohol, or use mouthwash. To hide the excessive drinking, they will drink maybe one or two drinks, and comment on how quickly the alcohol has affected them.
Those suffering with eating disorders, will eat a meal, and go to the bathroom to vomit afterwards. Or say they have already eaten to hide the fact they are not eating much.
Some self-harmers have said that when they cut themselves they can feel the pain, and it helps with the internal pain they are suffering. Others have said it feels like a release of pain, making them feel euphoric and in control of their life, when everything else seems uncontrollable.
There can be a belief that self-harmers, particularly those that cut their skin, are attention seeking. This is not always the case, and for those that are judged in this way, it can be extremely hurtful to be thought of in that way. Some people that self-harm worry they will be judged as crazy, and worry they will be placed in a mental health unit or sectioned.
The anxiety that self-harm can often bring strong feelings of anxiety, worthlessness and in some cases thoughts of suicide. It can just all seem too much, and that there is no way out. Who can help? Who will understand, and not judge?
Some self-harmers start writing blogs online, and find they gain support and understanding from fellow harmers. Other self-harmers contact charities or organisations supporting self-harm, and gain support. There has been some criticism of these blogs as some say it can glorify self-harming. But, most self-harmers express how much support they gain, and the feeling they are not alone.
Counselling can help those that self-harm. Working through the causes of self-harm, can really help. You’ll be able to work through at a pace that suits you, why you self-harm, and help you to come to terms with any issues that are affecting you, and maybe causing you to self-harm.
About the author
Catharine is an experienced person centred counsellor, who has worked with clients who have self-harmed. Catharine also had experience of working with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, domestic violence, forced marriage, arranged marriage, loss and bereavement.
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