Self injury

Self-injury: what’s happening?

Self-injury describes a process when someone makes direct physical attacks on parts of their own body, typically through cutting, scratching, burning, or pulling hair out. Perhaps the most well known form of self-injury is cutting: making cuts or scratches on the body, usually the arms, legs, chest or stomach.

For many, it is an attempt to manage difficult or even frightening emotions. The person self-injuring can find it a relief to feel external and tangible pain, and it can distract them from internal, overwhelming and painful feelings. Others hurt themselves as a way of 'externalising' their 'internal' pain, or as a way of being in control of some part of their life.

People who self-injure often feel a sense of release when they are doing it, but this is generally followed by feelings of guilt, shame, and a realisation that the problems inside simply continue or intensify. Self-injury can have an addictive or compulsive element to it, so that those who start can sometimes then find it hard to stop.

Frequently self-injury takes the place of being able to put difficult feelings into words, and many find that if they are able to talk about their problems with a supportive person such as a counsellor, the desire to self-injure lessens.

Keeping yourself safe

If you are self-injuring and are finding it difficult to stop, you may want to think about ways of keeping yourself as safe as possible during this period:

External Resources

For information and advice, you may find the following links helpful: