Self-harm: the silent scream

For the purposes of this article, I have used a fictional character and scenario. However, the content relates to many situations that a counsellor may hear about when supporting clients who self-harm.

Jodie is a bright, articulate and seemingly confident young woman. Her reasons for coming into counselling are based on having found herself, as an adult, returning to old behaviours. You see, Jodie physically self-harmed from the age of fourteen until she reached her twenties. The self-harm had allowed her to deal with a difficult home life and the changes that she experienced with her sexuality.

As she grew up, moved on and found independence, Jodie no longer had to resort to cutting, punching and biting herself as a way to deal with her difficult thoughts and emotions.

However, life is becoming difficult again for the first time since becoming an adult and moving out of her childhood home. Despite seeing the confident woman in the mirror, the old behaviours have been triggered. Jodie is in shock and feeling a wealth of emotions such as guilt and shame as she sees the old scars being re-opened.

Of course, Jodie is fictional, but there will be many people who can identify with her situation. Everyone who self-harms has an individual experience of their own life and an equally individual experience of why and how they self-harm. Some will do it continually as a way of coping throughout life. Others like Jodie may have felt they had left their self-harming behind them.

To find yourself returning to these old behaviours as a way of coping can be incredibly difficult to admit to. Some clients use the word ‘failed’ or ‘failure’ when they had thought their wounds were healed both physically and emotionally. An adult can begin to feel out of control and childlike again; losing their voice and ability to express to others what is happening.

  • We struggle with a situation/life event.
  • We think we are not coping and feel out of control.
  • We begin to feel strong emotions such as guilt and shame.
  • Old memories and behaviours become triggered.
  • We self-harm as a way of coping and finding a release; a temporary fix.

To self-harm does not make the person a failure because they have returned to old behaviours. It is a cry for help, ‘a silent scream’ that must not be ignored. There is no shame in why, when or how you self-harm, there is just self-harm and a need for support.

  • We struggle with a situation/life event.
  • We think we are not coping and feel out of control.
  • We begin to feel strong emotions such as guilt and shame.
  • Old memories and behaviours become triggered.
  • We break the cycle and reach out for help.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

Share this article with a friend

Written by a listed counsellor/therapist

Show comments

Find a counsellor or psychotherapist dealing with self-harm

All therapists are verified professionals.

Real Stories

More stories

Related Articles

More articles