How to help a person who self-harms!

addy

addy

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#1
Hurting yourself is NOT about attention
Hurting yourself is NOT about wanting to kill yourself
Hurting yourself is NOT about being an EMO
Hurting yourself is NOT about proving how cool you are
Hurting yourself is NOT about having a weakness of personality
Hurting yourself is NOT always about self-hate
Hurting yourself IS a symptom of a larger problem
Hurting yourself IS a symptom of a larger problem which the person may not even be aware of
Hurting yourself can be addictive


Like any form of addiction - gambling, drugs, smoking, chocolate, porn - you simply have to do it again, only with every new time you do it, it has to be bigger in order for you to receive the same “hit”.

This is where people who aren’t even suicidal are killing themselves by accident.

I’m not saying that everyone who self harms isn’t suicidal, nor am I saying that anything which I have written above about what self harm is/is not is set in stone. People self-inflict for all sorts of reasons, but from my experiences not only with my own self harm but also talking with people, who do the same thing, they aren’t suicidal or weak (in fact, some of the people who self-inflict that I know personally are the strongest most beautiful souls I’ve ever met)

I started self harming in 1993 whilst I was at school. I was able to get this under control by mid-1999 whilst working at the video shop. Throughout my time backpacking I was not having any urges to do so and thought I had it under control.

I did relapse however during the last four months of 2000; whilst trying to cope with Rachel’s death, restarting college and after my first suicide attempt [remember that word for later; after.]

From December 2000 to December 2006 I only self harmed on two occasions. It wasn’t until my breakdown in March 2007 that I relapsed and once more began doing so. I was able to get it under control again between May 2007 and July 2007, but suffered another major relapse, and have self-inflicted on/off since.

The last time I self-inflicted was two days after my last suicide attempt, October 2007

My trick with self-harming was to attack parts of my body which I could cover by throwing on some form of clothing, beit a jumper on the middle of a summer’s day or a long sleeve T-shirt on a cooler one. Always with injuries which wouldn’t leave any long-long term scars.

I would always use similar methods and every now and then, when the mood struck, would become creative and resort to more unusual methods.

I was never doing it because of wanting to kill myself, or hating myself, or wanting to prove how tough and resilient I was. Nor was I doing it for attention - if attention was all I was after I would release a wombat into a crowded shopping precinct or streak Brunswick Street on a Sunday afternoon.

I’m referring to the coping mechanisms people have when their internal pain becomes too great.

The reason I self-inflicted was as a way to control the inner conflict, pain and turmoil my mind was going through as a result of them. It wasn’t because I still wanted to die; it was because I wanted to live!

The other times I self harmed was as a way to feel something. Life had become numb, frustrating, painful, empty and meaningless. The over-riding feeling of loneliness and emptiness is a powerful influence, because we live to feel, and if we are feeling nothing then what is the point of being alive? Again I wasn’t self-inflicting because I wanted to die, it was because I wanted to feel something: to feel like I was alive!

Hence, why, before my third suicide attempt I did self harm - as a means to grab some physical feeling. something to convince myself not to go through with what my brain was telling me to do. However, on this instance, no matter what pain I caused myself, it didn’t work.

Overcoming the urge to self-inflict has been one of the hardest things I have had to deal with through this tumultuous time suffering from depression.

It has addictive qualities and as anyone who has tried giving up smoking or gambling or Lindt or badgers will know that overcoming addiction is fucking hard! Not only because of the pure level of addiction, but also because it means having to face up to whatever problem is feeding that addiction in the first place. Whatever buried pain is making us smoke, drink or gamble needs to be faced up to.

To overcome self-harm, like with every form of mental illness, we need to start talking about it in order to understand it, in order to help people overcome and control their addiction.

So how can you help? If you know someone who self-harms here are a few pointers:

- Whatever they’re doing DON”T take it personally. It isn’t about YOU!
- Be available and LISTEN to them if they need to talk.
- ACKNOWLEDGE their pain, it won’t make it go away, but it will make it more bearable.
- DON’T avoid the subject or pretend it’s not there.
- ASK THEM “I know you hurt yourself and I would like to understand it a little more, could you maybe explain why you do it? I’d be grateful if you could.”
- DON’T confiscate their “tools” (because I guarantee you this will lose their trust and they will just get more creative anyway)
- BELIEVE in them and BE HOPEFUL
- DON’T push them
- TAKE the initiative and distract them; take them to the cinema, rent a DVD, bake some chocolate brownies, go to a trivia night, go for a walk, have a playful pillow or water pistol fight, hell, if they’re your bf or gf, do a seductive strip tease and get them thinking about that cute butt of yours.
- DO spontaneous acts of kindness
- Be available, and willing, to LISTEN if they need to talk.
- EDUCATE yourself - slip on your Willow hat and hop on the net for some research.
- SUPPORT them physically; call them up and tell them you’re worried about them and invite them over for a game of scrabble or a blueberry muffin.
- SUPPORT them emotionally; go to the Doctor/Psychologist with them.
And please, please…whatever you do…
- DO NOT TRY TO MAKE/ORDER THEM TO STOP!!!!!!!!! If you make them feel guilty, or punish them in any way, this will just add fuel to their addiction.
And please, please, please, please…whatever you do…remember to…
- Take TIME OUT and recuperate, caring/loving someone who suffers from any form of mental illness is exhausting and you need to look after yourself.


Although it’s confronting, brutal and painful to think that people you care about are inflicting this pain on themselves remember that to them it is merely an addiction. A symptom of a larger, possibly unknown illness or condition, and they just need some help and support in order to get them through it.

As we’ve all experienced from time to time: the over-riding feeling of loneliness and emptiness is a powerful influence. It’s time to stop judging people who self harm, and start understanding what they are feeling; it’s the only way to understand their pain.
 
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prairiechick

prairiechick

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#2
For me, self harm is about self hatred. It's about me feeling like I have to punish myself, I have to suffer pain because I am bad. And for me, it was a way of getting attention, because no one seemed to really think it was that bad, and I didn't really need to seek out professional help. Self harm the first time helped calm my anxiety, and other times it has connected me to my body, and relieved some of the emotional numbness I was feeling.
 
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F

Fobmsimcr999

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#3
For me, self harming started off as being a way to cope with pain. But at points I've harmed because I've felt like a terrible person who deserves pain for all the trouble I put people through.
I also do it out of anger too..? There have been times where I've been SO made, I'm shaking with rage. I've punched things, I've sworn, I've tried crying, but I still won't stop shaking. So I self harmed, and it calmed me down.
 
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prairiechick

prairiechick

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#4
I self-harmed today, both because I couldn't think of anything else that might help alleviate my psychological distress. I also SH'd because I wanted the pain on the outside to somehow manifest the pain on the inside. But despite some very ugly wounds, it wasn't enough to take away my pain. It was an attempt to demonstrate my inner pain out side of my body, rather than staying trapped.
 
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Felle

Felle

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#5
Self harming is familiar to me. Sometimes I hate myself so much that its the only way I can punish myself. I feel like I deserve all the pain. I´m not thinking rationally on those moments and later I regret it. It´s like a seizure or sth. My mind is blocked.
I don´t like it, but I can´t avoid those situations. Its like people cant choose when or wheather they have their next panic attack. It just comes against your will :(
 
Gledge

Gledge

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#6
I think the original post was trying to stop people immediately assuming self harming is about self hate as opposed to saying they have nothing to do with each other. The last few posts highlight that self hate can certainly be a factor that leads people to self harm, but this is not always the case. Furthrermore the emphasis on it being an addictive behaviour is an interesting point. Therefore if self hatered leads someone to self harm initially, even if the self loathing issues are sucessful addressed/treated, a person may still find it difficult stop thus self harming ceases to be about self hatered.
 
Gledge

Gledge

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#7
Point taken Maxi, sorry. I'll bear that in mind before making future posts on this thread. I think this is a great thread to sticky and anyone interested in understanding about self harm should jump to the first post right away.

Final note to Joshua, thanks for your concern, I do apreciate it. But don't worry my experience of SH was quite a short one while my mood was at its lowest a few months back. I've not been harming since that low, but even then it was hard to break away from it. My main reason for posting in the first place was that I wanted to reinforce the first post's point that a lot of it is to do with addiction. And that simply trying to force someone to stop can make it worse.
 
N

Nate17

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#8
people who self harm are not weak.. and for the people who self harm themselve.. most of you do out of depression, most people do it for pleasure..
Your right, we arnt weak, no, MOST of us dont do it out of depression.. and no MOST of us dont do it for plesure, i personally do it to cause my self pain, the the pain i have caused others, not only does the pain take a weight off my chest, it also makes me able to forgive my self. and yes.. people do SH for things such as self hate. people SH for any reason.. you cant rule reasons out just because its not commen.
 
Wonder.ing.y.Woman

Wonder.ing.y.Woman

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#9
MyVice

Living in a world where you dont always have a say over how your thoughts, emotions, and memories will play out. Its almost a comfort to know that I still have the ability to feel. Even if it is an act of desperation or control.
I was hesitant to share with family. Fear they wouldnt understand or think I was just a drama queen. So far so good. We use it as a guide for intervention. A relief for myself because Im not always aware of when I ve hit that tipping point.
 
P

Pffft

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#10
i self harm for many reasons... 1- to feel my emotional pain.. 2- they are tears i cant cry and 3- to punish myself when i have upset someone.. And therefore i punish myself.. Also there is my guilt which means i deserve it.
 
G

Geraint-jones

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#11
I self harm as a coping mechanism to stressful situations, but other times it just pops into my head and I have to do it. At timesI'm able to battle it but its bloody hard work & more times than not it wins... Eventualy it always wins, its like im some times able to'delay' it but sooner or latter I have a massive 'blow out' and it wins.
 
P

Pedro Sheeler

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#12
Self-harm help you express feelings you can’t put into words, distract you from your life, or release emotional pain. But then the painful feelings return, and you feel the urge to hurt yourself again. It also creates its own problems. But hiding who you are and what you feel is a heavy burden. It can make you feel even more lonely, worthless, and trapped. So to help a person who self harms is giving focus on the feelings or situations that lead to it. Communicate with that person in whatever ways you feel comfortable and give some time to the person to process what you tell them.
 
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Pedro Sheeler

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#13
well thanks addy for sharing your thoughts. I have sometimes tried hurting myself. It all depends on the situation but mostly when you care for someone or love someone and can’t retaliate. Its a sort of transforming mental pressure to physical pain. Once the pressure is released the situation seems to be under control. Though i’ve tried overcoming it, have also seen improvement, avoided fight or any sort of argument with loved ones at that time.
 
calypso

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#14
Hiya Pedro, I feel to help with SH is not to push the thoughts away as that makes them stronger. Better to notice them there and say to yourself, "OK I can hear you, but I'm giving it 15 minutes before I act". Giving yourself space gives you time to calm down and think about the inner pain.

SH is a symptom of something else, so let that inner pain be heard and don't fight it. Its called Radical Acceptance, which doesn't mean that you passively accept any pain, but you actively, even though it hurts like hell, accept that there is pain. Funnily enough, doing that lessens the inner pain.

We all know that SH is nothing to do with attention seeking, most people in fact hide it. But it does give attention to yourself to face that inner pain, but in a way which leaves its mark on us. So accepting the inner pain will still be there a few minutes, an hour etc later, means it can release energy to help yourself.
 
V

Vinny.96

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#15
Selfharm is a simpler way to forget mental pain using physical pain. I used to selfharm for 1 year, and with the help of my doc, medication and therapy I don't need it anymore. It's a battle against yourself. So, if you know someone used to it try telling this person to look for a professional because this is not a joke, this is a serious sympton of depression. Hope every selfharmer here gets better xoxo
 
naominash

naominash

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#16
Hurting yourself is NOT about attention!
Hurting yourself is NOT about wanting to kill yourself!
Hurting yourself is NOT about bloody EMO!!
Hurting yourself is NOT about proving how cool you are!!
Hurting yourself is NOT about having a weakness of personality!
Hurting yourself is NOT about self-hate!!
Hurting yourself IS a symptom of a larger problem!
Hurting yourself IS a symptom of a larger problem which the person may not even be aware of!!
Hurting yourself IS AN ADDICTION!!
Pure and simple.

Like any form of addiction - gambling, drugs, smoking, chocolate, porn - you simply have to do it again, only with every new time you do it, it has to be bigger in order for you to receive the same “hit”.

This is where people who aren’t even suicidal are killing themselves by accident.

I’m not saying that everyone who self harms isn’t suicidal, nor am I saying that anything which I have written above about what self harm is/is not is set in stone. People self-inflict for all sorts of reasons, but from my experiences not only with my own self harm but also talking with people, who do the same thing, they aren’t suicidal or weak (in fact, some of the people who self-inflict that I know personally are the strongest most beautiful souls I’ve ever met)

I started self harming in 1993 whilst I was at school. I was able to get this under control by mid-1999 whilst working at the video shop. Throughout my time backpacking I was not having any urges to do so and thought I had it under control.

I did relapse however during the last four months of 2000; whilst trying to cope with Rachel’s death, restarting college and after my first suicide attempt [remember that word for later; after.]

From December 2000 to December 2006 I only self harmed on two occasions. It wasn’t until my breakdown in March 2007 that I relapsed and once more began doing so. I was able to get it under control again between May 2007 and July 2007, but suffered another major relapse, and have self-inflicted on/off since.

The last time I self-inflicted was two days after my last suicide attempt, October 2007 [and note the use of the after again].

My trick with self-harming was to attack parts of my body which I could cover by throwing on some form of clothing, beit a jumper on the middle of a summer’s day or a long sleeve T-shirt on a cooler one. Always with injuries which wouldn’t leave any long-long term scars.

I would always use similar methods and every now and then, when the mood struck, would become creative and resort to more unusual methods.

I was never doing it because of wanting to kill myself, or hating myself, or wanting to prove how tough and resilient I was. Nor was I doing it for attention - if attention was all I was after I would release a wombat into a crowded shopping precinct or streak Brunswick Street on a Sunday afternoon. It was always about this PAIN-PLEASURE balance I mentioned in an earlier post.

(And no, I’m not referring to this pain-pleasure as in a sadomasochistic way - ‘cause if that was the case whenever I felt like self-inflicting I would just go visit a dominatrix and have some sexy woman whip me rather than doing it myself.)

I’m referring to the coping mechanisms people have when their internal pain becomes too great.

Remember I said earlier to note the use of the word after in relation to my suicide attempts. The reason I self-inflicted after those attempts was as a way to control the inner conflict, pain and turmoil my mind was going through as a result of them. It was a way to stop me from trying again! It wasn’t because I still wanted to die; it was because I wanted to live!

The other times I self harmed was as a way to feel something. Life had become numb, frustrating, painful, empty and meaningless. The over-riding feeling of loneliness and emptiness is a powerful influence, because we live to feel, and if we are feeling nothing then what is the point of being alive? Again I wasn’t self-inflicting because I wanted to die, it was because I wanted to feel something: to feel like I was alive!

Hence, why, before my third suicide attempt I did self harm - as a means to grab some physical feeling. something to convince myself not to go through with what my brain was telling me to do. However, on this instance, no matter what pain I caused myself, it didn’t work.

Overcoming the urge to self-inflict has been one of the hardest things I have had to deal with through this tumultuous time suffering from depression.

As I said above, IT IS AN ADDICTION. Pure and simple!

And anyone who has tried giving up smoking or gambling or Lindt or badgers will know that overcoming addiction is fucking hard! Not only because of the pure level of addiction, but also because it means having to face up to whatever problem is feeding that addiction in the first place. Whatever buried pain is making us smoke, drink or gamble needs to be faced up to. In essence, we need to become whip-wielding dominatrixies in order to tame and eventually command our problems.

To overcome self-harm, like with every form of mental illness, we need to start talking about it in order to understand it, in order to help people overcome and control their addiction.

So how can you help? If you know someone who self-harms here are a few pointers:

- Whatever they’re doing DON”T take it personally. It isn’t about YOU!
- Be available and LISTEN to them if they need to talk.
- ACKNOWLEDGE their pain, it won’t make it go away, but it will make it more bearable.
- DON’T avoid the subject or pretend it’s not there.
- ASK THEM “I know you hurt yourself and I would like to understand it a little more, could you maybe explain why you do it? I’d be grateful if you could.”
- DON’T confiscate their “tools” (because I guarantee you this will lose their trust and they will just get more creative anyway)
- BELIEVE in them and BE HOPEFUL
- DON’T push them
- TAKE the initiative and distract them; take them to the cinema, rent a DVD, bake some chocolate brownies, go to a trivia night, go for a walk, have a playful pillow or water pistol fight, hell, if they’re your bf or gf, do a seductive strip tease and get them thinking about that cute butt of yours.
- DO spontaneous acts of kindness
- Be available, and willing, to LISTEN if they need to talk.
- EDUCATE yourself - slip on your Willow hat and hop on the net for some research.
- SUPPORT them physically; call them up and tell them you’re worried about them and invite them over for a game of scrabble or a blueberry muffin.
- SUPPORT them emotionally; go to the Doctor/Psychologist with them.
And please, please…whatever you do…
- DO NOT TRY TO MAKE/ORDER THEM TO STOP!!!!!!!!! If you make them feel guilty, or punish them in any way, this will just add fuel to their addiction.
And please, please, please, please…whatever you do…remember to…
- Take TIME OUT and recuperate, caring/loving someone who suffers from any form of mental illness is exhausting and you need to look after yourself.


Although it’s confronting, brutal and painful to think that people you care about are inflicting this pain on themselves remember that to them it is merely an addiction. A symptom of a larger, possibly unknown illness or condition, and they just need some help and support in order to get them through it.

As we’ve all experienced from time to time: the over-riding feeling of loneliness and emptiness is a powerful influence. It’s time to stop judging people who self harm, and start understanding what they are feeling; it’s the only way to understand their pain.
This helped me. I thought maybe self-hatred was the usual culprit, but it was only a guess. I want to be helpful to thos who struggle with this.
 
Tired Daisy

Tired Daisy

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#17
I used to have disturbing thoughts of self harm and still do from time to time and it can be really hard not to go through with it at times. I don't even understand why, or why I'd lose control over myself, it be the spare of the moment kinda thing and also very scary because I have no control like something dark is within me making me self harm and then I'd get psychotic thoughts that if I did something to myself then everything would be ok but I break away from it in the darkest moments of my self harm thoughts and what helps me is that I take the time to think about what could be causing this and I search deep inside myself on why, and even tho some times I don't know why but I try to make sense of it but I get there to avoid hurting myself, until the next time.
 
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G

Georgia May

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#18
Self harm for me is an urge like an itch that has to be scratched. I don't, however, feel the urge in public, so there must be an element of subconscious control. If I'm in public I tend to just want to cry, and mostly I can stifle tears or turn away, so no one can see, but I also self harm out of boredom when I'm alone. So it's not just about emotional pain, although it helps that because I've noticed in stressful or painful moments when I can't cry I can get a headache and going away and self harming releases the tension and the headache. It's not dangerous self harming I engage in, but all the same it's obviously self harm. It's not attention seeking, only my ex and my parents know I do it, and even then my parents have only seen one element of it. Whether it's about self hatred I don't know. I don't care enough about what it might be doing to my body so possibly, but I do think it's more about stress or pain release. It feels good and apart from leaving unsightly marks I don't find anything wrong with it because it's not dangerous. It's not usually that painful either.

I think it's natural to react negatively to a person self harming. When you hear what people do to themselves and it's quite clearly dangerous I find that disturbing myself. But then I only really considered what I was doing self harming a couple of years ago and I've been doing it since I was about 11. It is habitual but it's also great for making myself feel better even though I am also ashamed of it.

Looking at the timing though for starting I can see that it might be related to psychological and verbal bullying I was experiencing at school so the chances are if someone is doing it there are external problems in their life that they need a coping mechanism for. And I suppose that's still a large part of its function for me but it's also boredom. If I'm on my own I don't really try to stop it, but external incentives have helped in the past. Mainly the prospect of someone seeing my body that I don't want to disgust. I need to find other incentives now since that scenario isn't likely now, which is a problem for me. But in general I do work better with incentives, I don't know about other people. The incentive has to come from within the person though, personally I hide it from anyone who could judge and some of it is covered up by clothes anyway. Telling a person to stop won't help and punishing them is counterproductive as it can be a form of self punishment itself and it just adds to stress.

I think the best cure for it is unconditional love which animals can provide, but if boredom is a factor I expect that wouldn't eradicate it, also self compassion which can be much harder to achieve. If I had succeeded in finding a way to do that I would share it, although I have had other suggestions from people on the forum. But also dealing with external triggers would help. Sometimes cutting out the harmful roots of the problem from your life is possible and obviously that will help. That isn't always the case though. Finding healthy coping mechanisms is the answer in that case. I think other people have made suggestions above as to what to do instead and they seem quite helpful. But if the person is like me and enjoys it replacing it might be more difficult and some of it is habitual so it's not that easy to do.
 
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Tired Daisy

Tired Daisy

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#19
I've felt like self harming which is mainly stress relief for me but then there are those dark times where I feel like self mutilation and that shit is serious I've experienced it but luckily I've never harmed myself like that although I get attempts to and its scary but I'll fight it and remain strong.
 
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midnightphoenix

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#20
Sometimes I self harm due to self hatred, other times it's to take the emotional pain I'm feeling and turn it into physical pain.

I'm not advising others to do that, just saying that's why I self harm.