The signs to look out for if you think that you, a friend or relative, may be suffering with self-harm

Self-harming can provide temporary relief from feelings such as anxiety, depression, stress or self-loathing. The pain that is inflicted can release endorphins and a rush of adrenaline, which often become pleasurable to the sufferer and causes them to temporarily forget other negative feelings that they may be experiencing.

Self-harming is a relatively common condition but it is often concealed from friends and family members so it can often be difficult to spot. Look out for an increase in spending more time on their own and also watch out for any tablets which may go missing and any sharps including knives, scissors and so on. Self harming may start in childhood and increase in frequency and severity in adolescence. A recent Priory feature, Self Harm: Time to bust the myths explores this issue in depth.

Look out for a change in situation, whether that is the end of a relationship or an increase in work related stress.

Am I a self-harmer?

  • Compulsively picking at skin - for example picking at wounds or creating wounds on the surface of skin
  • Pulling hair out as a reaction to stress
  • Stabbing themselves with sharps including scissors or knives
  • Poisoning themselves with medication - for example overdosing on ibuprofen or paracetamol
  • Alcohol or drug misuse - excessively drinking alcohol or taking a variety of drugs
  • Deliberately starving themselves (anorexia nervosa)
  • Binge eating or bulimia
  • Burning themselves

What are the emotional symptoms of self-harming?

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Frustration
  • Confusion
  • Lack of sleep
  • Loss of weight or weight gain
  • Social isolation

7 tips for dealing with self-harm:

  1. Understand and accept that you have a problem and the behaviour that you’re showing is very dangerous and can become addictive.
  2. If you are self-harming regularly, take steps to keep yourself as safe as possible.
  3. Speak with a friend or relative that you trust about your self-harming behaviour.
  4. Try to work out how you feel when you self-harm - this understanding can then help to solve triggers that cause you to behave in this way.
  5. Write down your emotions and triggers – reading over this regularly can reinforce why you turn to self-harm and how you can avoid it.
  6. Surround yourself with positive people and remove any negative influences.
  7. Seek professional help when it becomes too much to handle – asking for help is healthy and normal and will help you to further understand your actions.

For further information on the treatments, help and support that Priory can offer to help people who self-harm, then please call: 0845 277 4679.