Self-harm is when someone intentionally hurts themselves; this can take many forms, such as cutting, hitting or burning oneself.
It is more common than you might think, especially amongst younger people, although it can affect people of any age. It is estimated that around 10% of young people self-harm at some point, however the figure may actually be higher as not all people seek help. Often people try to hide their self-harm; they might feel ashamed, concerned about being judged or worried about the reactions of others.
People self-harm for many reasons; sometimes it is used as a coping strategy to help manage difficult feelings or as a way of communicating distress. Whilst for some people self-harming might indicate that they are feeling suicidal, for many people it does not. It is important to be assessed by a professional who can explore these things, assess risk, and think with the person about the best way to help.
Self-harm often occurs in response to overwhelming emotions, which people find difficult to think or speak about. It can take some time to understand a person’s feelings in relation to their self-harm; these might be conflicting and complex. Accessing therapy can give someone the space to do this in a non-judgemental environment. This might enable them to better understand their self-harm and to develop other ways of responding to their feelings over time.
If you are self-harming it is important to seek help, rather than try to cope alone. Your GP is usually the best place to start as they will be able to refer you to the most appropriate service. You will need to visit A&E if you are feeling suicidal or have injured yourself and require medical attention.
How the Tavistock and Portman can help
Here at the Tavistock we work to understand people as individuals. This can include thinking about self-destructive behaviours and the conscious and unconscious motivations behind these. Our services work with people across the life span; children, families, adolescents, young adults and adults; in order to explore such behaviours and think together about their meanings. We offer talking therapies such as psychodynamic psychotherapy, CBT, IPT and family therapy. We work with individuals on a one-to-one basis or in groups. Once a person is referred to our services an in-depth assessment will be conducted in order to consider the best way of working with them.