Explains self-harm, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.
There are a number of ways to help yourself in the long term. They include a deeper exploration of the reasons why you self-harm, to help you find alternatives:
If you have been shamed for your feelings, or learnt to shut them down for any other reason, it is very brave to start to face them once more. It can feel very frightening to allow yourself to experience difficult emotions again, and it is important to go very slowly. Perhaps include tools like mindfulness or keep a journal to support and prevent you from becoming overwhelmed.
"I was able to start channelling my feelings into creativity. This gave me an outlet to build a better relationship with myself, and I was able to occupy my hands when feeling really bad until the urge to self-harm had subsided."
Learning to value yourself and perceive yourself positively makes a big difference to your experience in life.
See How to increase your self-esteem for more suggestions.
Letting go of self-harm can feel like a really big decision that takes time to make. It can be very helpful to understand your relationship to it in more depth, so that you can put things in place to support the process. The more you understand about why you hurt yourself, and the function that self-harm has had for you, the better equipped you will be to make changes and put effective alternatives in place.
The following questions can help you begin the process of understanding your self-harm:
"I think the best way to stop self-harm is to focus on the underlying issues which trigger you to do it. If you work on these issues, then the self-harm will stop naturally."
For more guidance on supporting yourself to stop self-harming see Self-injury Support's information resources, LifeSIGNS' information on alternatives and the Harmless guide to working through self-harm.
Taking care of your health and wellbeing on all levels can help you feel a lot better about yourself. Whatever steps you choose to take, it’s important to be kind to yourself. Here are some suggestions that are known to be helpful:
Reaching out can feel hard, especially if you worry that people will judge you or you believe other people might not want to help you. Remind yourself that everyone needs support at different times, and that it is OK to ask for help.
When you are ready to reach out, choose someone who you trust to talk to about how you are feeling. This could be a friend, family member, counsellor or health professional (see the Treatment and support section for more information). Remember that you are in control of what you say, and you don't have to say anything that you're not ready to share yet.
You may also find it helpful to write a list of all the people, organisations and websites that you can go to for help when you are finding things difficult. This will remind you that you are not alone, and where you can get help. See Useful contacts for some suggestions.
"Having a therapist who would never judge and remained constant and calm made a huge difference in me being able to open up."
There is no magic solution or quick fix for self-harm, and making changes can take time and involve periods of difficulty. It is common to make some progress and then get back into old behaviours again. If this happens to you, remind yourself that it's not failing – it is simply part of the process.
This information was published in May 2020. We will revise it in 2023.
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