The revelation: Self-harming behaviours

What is self-harm? It is an intentional act of inflicting harm to oneself. The self-harming behaviour we are most familiar with is cutting. This involves cutting the superficial or deeper layers of the skin, typically on the arms or legs. Cutting is over-represented by social media, and so it has entered in to our language and is now widely spoken about. Consequently, other self-harming behaviours have been overlooked and maintain unheard of, and some are not even recognised as acts of self-harm. These unheard of self-harming behaviours will be revealed in this article. It is important we speak openly of these other self-harming behaviours. It will enable self-harmers to speak out about their experiences and so receive the help they require.

Unheard of self-harming behaviours;

  • Eye-gouging is the act of pressing or tearing the eye with the fingers or an instrument.
  • Hair pulling also known as Trichotillomania involves pulling hair out of the body.
  • Self-embedding involves inserting objects into the body, such as staples, glass and needles, which sometimes are left under the skin.
  • Poisoning self with tablets or toxic chemicals, to damage health or endanger life.

Unrecognised acts of self-harm;

  • Excessive exercise, whereby the body is pushed beyond one’s pain threshold, which can cause the body to burn out.
  • Abusing the body with excessive drinking and drug taking.
  • Placing self in to harmful situations or provoking a violent physical reaction from others.
  • Deliberately depriving the body of food, such as in the case of anorexia nervosa, whereby the person also makes themselves vomit.
  • Excessive eating, such as in the case of Bulimia nervosa, whereby the person binges and continues to even when full up.

Why self-harm? In times of emotional upheaval, we require a physical outlet. If an emotional outlet is inhibited instead of feelings being released, they fester inside the body. Self-harm offers a way of releasing these feelings and becomes a way of coping with emotional pain.

What support is available? The thought of not self-harming can feel terrifying, especially if it is the only coping mechanism used to cope with emotional pain. Together with a professional counsellor, you can explore and identify your reasons for self-harming, discover new ways of coping with painful emotions and work towards reducing or stopping the self-harming behaviours.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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