Breaking free from self-harm


Mental Health Blog / Sunday, June 10th, 2018

Self-harm is a term used to describe deliberate, harmful physical actions used as a means to cope with emotions or distress.  It’s difficult for people to understand self-harming as a coping strategy and many jump to the conclusion that it must be an attempt at suicide.  However, research has shown that people who self-harm have a higher risk of suicide.

People who self-harm inflict pain or harm to their bodies often by cutting, burning, pinching or biting, but it can also include drug or alcohol abuse and eating disorders.

In 2015, the National Suicide Research Foundation published a report that showed self-harm was on the rise in Ireland.  The rate of self-harm incidents among women and girls rose by 3 per cent compared to the previous year.  Alarmingly, the survey found a fifteen per cent increase since 2017 in men and boys.  The figures may be higher than reported as it’s estimated that only 10 per cent of people who self-harm attend hospital for medical assistance.

In recent years there has been an increase in awareness of self-harm but there is still a need for better education.  Unfortunately, individuals who self-harm can face a lack of understanding amongst family or friends, leading to isolation or shame.

Finding a way to cope with emotions or work through distress can be key to no longer using self-harm as a coping strategy.  Talking about feelings can, understandably, be difficult for a person who self-harms but there are national organisations and charities set up to provide a safe, non-judgemental place to talk about self-harm.

Qualified therapists and counsellors can also offer confidential support.  CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), a talk therapy, is an effective way to treat the underlying issues at the root of self-harm.  The therapist can help you identify triggers, notice when your stress or anxiety levels are increasing, and help you to manage distress in healthier ways than self-harming.

Working with you, I use an ‘integrative pot’ of therapy to help you manage self-harm.  I tailor our sessions to your needs.  Your therapy may include CBT as well as other therapies such as EMDR (eye movement  desensitization reprocessing), Gestalt therapy, or person centred therapy.  I may also include creative approaches including drama, art & music therapy, or somatic therapy.

If you would like to learn more about how therapy can help you or a loved one from self-harming, please get in touch with me.

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