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Self-harm

People deal with feelings in different ways. Advice and support is there if you need it...

What is self-harm?

People use different terms for self-injury such as self- harm, deliberate self -harm self- injurious behaviour. Self-harm is an umbrella term that includes a variety of behaviours that happen when a person causes injury or harm to themselves.

Some of the most common forms of self-harm include:

  • Cutting
  • Burning
  • Overdose
  • Scratching or picking
  • Biting
  • Hair pulling
  • Eating issues or eating disorders
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Head banging and hitting
  • Taking personal risks

Self-injury falls under the umbrella of self-harm, and is generally viewed as including direct behaviour that causes injury and damage to one's body.

Why do people self-harm?

Sometimes people find it difficult to manage and express their feelings in appropriate ways. It is often to help them to manage the way they are feeling or to deal with stressful situations. Some people self-injure when they have feelings of anxiety, depression, stress, frustration, distress or when they feel out of control. Self-injury can, for some people, provide temporary relief from difficult feelings and can transfer emotional pain into physical pain which may be easier to manage.

The pain inflicted can also release endorphins and a rush of adrenaline which can initially bring short-lived relief, pleasure and release to the person. However, feelings of remorse, shame and guilt can soon follow, which can often perpetuate a vicious cycle leading to the person self-injuring again.

How common is self-harm?

Self-harm is more common than many people realise, especially among younger people...

  • Self Injury Awareness day (teenager)A survey of people aged 15-16 years carried out in the UK in 2002 estimated that more than 10% of girls and more than 3% of boys had self-harmed in the previous year.
  • In 2013, the Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) report reveals that 20% of 15-year-olds questioned had hurt themselves.
  • In 2014, a new survey by the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that in England the number of teenagers who have self-harmed has tripled in the last decade.
  • Anecdotal reports from local services suggest that self- harming in the Isle of Man in young people may well parallel that of England.

If self-injury helps, why stop?

Although self-injury can give you temporary relief, it can be quickly followed by other feelings like shame and guilt. It also keeps you from learning more effective strategies for feeling better.

You can hurt yourself badly, even if you don't mean to. For example, it is easy to misjudge the depth of a cut or the short and long term impact of ingesting medication or substances.

It is important to learn new and more appropriate coping strategies. Learning other ways to deal with emotional pain means that you will be better equipped to deal with and manage any upsets or challenges in the future.

Alternatives to self-injury

Many people who self-injure learn new ways to cope or distract themselves when they feel the need, often referred to as an 'urge' to self- injure, others may look for alternatives or substitutes which are less damaging or harmful.

Alternatives banner

Some distractions and alternatives to self-injury are:

  • alternative therapies such as massage, or aromatherapy
  • baking or making a meal
  • being creative: make things, draw or paint
  • exercise: this helps to release endorphins and get that that feel-good factor
  • going online and looking at websites that offer you advice, information and support
  • having a bubble bath
  • listening to music or making music singing or playing instruments
  • spending time with friends or family
  • writing any negative thoughts or feelings down..then rip them up!
  • yoga, deep breathing meditation

or visit these sites to get more ideas:

Disclaimer: Content found on websites we link to do not necessarily reflect the views of our service. Third-party websites are for informational purposes only and we cannot be held responsible for any content on these websites.

What to do if you are self-harming

Talking with a trusted friend or family member can really help, but this can sometimes be hard to do. It may be easier to talk to someone who is not personally involved in your life. In the first instance you could try talking to your GP. Your GP will listen to you and not judge you; they may help you consider other alternatives as coping strategies or refer you to a trained professional who will be able to help you talk through thoughts and feelings.

Samaritans logoIf a GP isn't available and you feel you need help straight away, contact the Samaritans who run a service with confidential non-judgemental emotional support, 24 hours a day for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair.

The phone number for the Isle of Man Samaritans branch is +44(0) 1624 663399.

More information and advice

We have compiled a collection of useful websites and factsheets about self-injury. Take a look at the table below for links to factsheets, advice and support networks.

Disclaimer: Content found on websites we link to do not necessarily reflect the views of our service. Third-party websites are for informational purposes only and we cannot be held responsible for any content on these websites.

Self-harm information and advice
LifeSIGNS self-injury factsheet Rethink self-injury factsheet
YoungMinds self-injury factsheet LifeSIGNS
National Self-harm Network Recover your Life
Self-harm UK YoungMinds
Childline The Site
Information for...
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Employers Teachers and Lecturers
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