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What is self harm?

Self-harm happens when someone hurts or harms themselves. They may:

  • take too many tablets
  • cut themselves
  • burn their body
  • bang their head
  • throw their body against something hard
  • punch themselves
  • stick things in their body
  • swallow inappropriate objects

It can feel to other people that these things are done coolly and deliberately – almost cynically. But someone who self-harms will usually do it in a state of high emotion, distress and unbearable inner turmoil. Some people plan it in advance, others do it suddenly. Some people self-harm only once or twice, but others do it regularly – it can become almost like an addiction.

Some of us harm ourselves in less obvious – but still serious – ways. We may behave in ways that suggest we don’t care whether we live or die – we may take drugs recklessly, have unsafe sex, or binge drink. Some people simply starve themselves.

Who self harms?

About 1 in 10 young people will self-harm at some point, but it can occur at any age.

  • It is more common in young women than men
  • Gay and bisexual people seem to be more likely to self-harm
  • Sometimes groups of young people self-harm together – having a friend who self-harms may increase your chances of doing it as well
  • Self-harm is more common in some sub-cultures
  • People who self-harm are more likely to have experienced physical, emotional or sexual abuse during childhood

Research probably under estimates how common self-harm is, and surveys find higher rates in communities and schools than in hospitals. Some types of self-harm, like cutting, may be more secret and so less likely to be noticed by other people. In a recent study of over 4000 self-harming adults in hospital, 80% had overdosed and around 15% had cut themselves. In the community, these statistics would probably be reversed.

What makes people self harm?

Any difficult experience can cause someone to self-harm. Common reasons include:

  • pressures at school or work
  • bullyingmoney worries
  • confusion about your sexuality
  • breakdown of a relationship
  • loss of a job
  • an illness or health problem
  • low self esteem
  • an increase in stress
  • difficult feelings, such as depression, anxiety and anger
  • physical or sexual abuse
  • relationship problems with partners, friends, and family

What if I need medical treatment?

You have the right to be treated with courtesy and respect by the doctors and nurses in the accident and emergency department. Many accident and emergency departments now have either a psychiatric liaison nurse, or a social worker, who will be able to talk with you about how you are feeling, and to see if there are any further ways of helping. They should be able to consider all your needs, whatever they may be, and to write an assessment of them. You should be able to go through this with them and, if you disagree with their assessment, to write this in the notes. Staff may want to go through a questionnaire with you as a way of judging how at risk you are.

Make an appointment

If you would like to arrange an appointment or require further information regarding our services please telephone our Wolverhampton practice on: 01902 827808.  Alternatively fill out our online contact form and we will contact you within 24 hours.