Self-harm refers to the act of deliberately causing harm to oneself either by hurting oneself, putting oneself at risk or through self-neglect. It can include:
Individuals that self harm will often do so because life feels unbearable and may benefit from an assessment by one of our experienced psychiatrists at our Harley Street, London Clinic. A specific event may have occurred and the resulting emotions feel too much to handle. Or there may be an on-going sense of suffering and overwhelm. Feeling stuck with intense and unbearable feelings means that self-harming might seem like an escape route to getting some temporary relief. In the act of self-harming there can be a sense of regaining control of at least one aspect of oneself, which offsets other feelings that feel scarily out of control. Self-harming also leads to physical pain which, albeit hurtful takes the focus away from emotional pain that is overwhelming. Self-harming can also be practiced as an act of self-punishment for example when feeling guilty. Behaviours that are less easily identified as self-harm include binge drinking, unsafe sex, reckless drug taking, or starving oneself to death. Sometimes an individual will harm in more than one way, for example cutting him or herself to relieve feelings of guilt after drug taking.
Self-harm can become an addictive behaviour, especially if it is associated with reliable if momentary relief. Due to the concern of judgements from others, the individual may become secretive about self-harming. They may feel that they cannot talk to a psychiatrist or any friends/family about self-harming for fear that they will be judged. There can be a stigma around self-harm due to others feeling confused or frightened by the behaviour. As a result a self-harmer might become more and more secretive and isolated. This in turns leads to further episodes of feeling bad and consequently self-harming.
Self-harm is more common in teenagers, with 1 in 10 young people self-harming at some point. It is also more prevalent in women, prisoners, asylum seekers, members of the Armed Forces, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, and those who have experienced physical, emotional or sexual abuse during childhood. However according to the Mental Health Foundation, 400 adults in every 100,000 harm themselves in the UK.
Self-harming behaviour does not necessarily mean that the individual is mentally ill, it may just mean that they are experiencing depression, relational issues, personality difficulties or struggling with drink or drug dependency.
There is no one single treatment for self-harming. If there is an underlying mental health issue such as an anxiety disorder or depression then this is what will be dealt with on the assumption that the individual will no longer feel the need to self-harm once this has been resolved. Neither is there a particular medication that can be prescribed by a psychiatrist for self- harm. It might still be beneficial to see a psychiatrist where the case is acute as they may prescribe medication to alleviate the underlying issues such as anxiety or depression.
In some instances, especially with young people, simply reaching out and confiding in parents, friends and teachers is enough to stop or greatly reduce the self-harming. In these cases clinical intervention may not be necessary and online support groups could be explored as an alternative. This might be the case if there is no underlying mental health issue.
An effective way to resolve self-harm is through psychiatric assessment followed by talking therapy. The following types of talking therapy can all prove effective:
A Psychiatrist assessment will allow you to get to the root cause of self harm and related issues. Our experienced psychiatrists will discuss your options for treatment which may include talking therapy or help with related issues such as anxiety and depression. To get in touch with a Psymplicity Healthcare psychiatrist for self harm issues, call our team on 02071180407 or use the contact form at the bottom of the page.
Counselling can can be helpful if an individual is going through a difficult life phase which is leading to self-harming, such as a transition from university to work or a relationship break-up. Counselling can support them to process their challenging feelings in a more helpful and healthy way.
In psychotherapy the original causes that led to the individuals’ current self-harming behaviour are explored. By making sense of and resolving issues in the past, self-esteem is increased and suffering reduced. Relational skills are also developed, making it easier to connect with and obtain support from others. The individual is left in a more psychologically robust place, having developed more helpful coping mechanisms when faced with difficult emotions.
In CTB the triggers for self-harming behaviour and the negative thoughts are analysed and replaced with more positive ones to gain greater control over your behaviour.
DBT is influenced by CBT and improves the individual’s ability to tolerate distress and develop their relational skills. This in turn reduces the need to self-harm. It is developed in a 1-1 and group setting.
We have highly experienced professionals employed in all of the above modalities. When you speak to one of our care coordinators they will ask you a little more about your issue in order to understand what you would like to get out of treatment. They will also take into consideration the time and availability you have for treatment before choosing carefully from our experienced practitioners in order to find a good fit. Once you start treatment the therapist will always deliver the sessions at a pace that suits you. They will provide a non-judgemental and empathic environment. They will recognise that you may not feel ready to stop self-harming straight away and will respect that whilst working with you to build up the inner resources so that you start to feel as if you have more control and choice over your behaviour.