It can be hard to admit that you self harm particularly if this has become the best way that you know how to deal with the stresses and strains of everyday life. Yet no matter how much you rely on it for emotional relief, self harming is never a healthy activity. To protect your physical health, and to get the mental and emotional support you need, recognise the warning signs that you are self harming, be honest with yourself about your behaviours, and seek help before you risk damaging yourself irreparably.
Recognise the Warning Signs
For some self harmers it is obvious that they self harm – they know that they cut, burn or otherwise injure themselves and they enjoy the release that this behaviour gives them. Others knowingly harm themselves, enjoy a short sense of emotional relief, but then feel guilty or ashamed about their behaviours afterwards. Still others are unhappy that they turn to these behaviours at all, but can’t seem to stop themselves when they are faced with overwhelming emotions. If you realise that you harm yourself, try to recognise the signs of when and why you might be engaging in this behaviour. For example, have you had:
Mood changes or mood swings?
Changes in eating patterns?
Changes in sleeping patterns?
Changes in socialising patterns?
Poor performance or results at school or work?
A Loss of interest in favourite hobbies or sports?
Stress due to school or work expectations?
Stress due to personal relationships?
A history of being bullied?
A history of sexual abuse?
A history of physical abuse?
A history of neglect?
Mental illness in the family?
Substance abuse in the family?
Be Honest with Yourself
Even if you are not ready to admit your behaviours to your family and friends, be honest with yourself about self harming. Chances are you know that you self harm, but are still confused about why and how to stop. Unfortunately, even if you wanted to, it is unlikely that you will wake up one day and simply never feel the need to self harm again. The good news, however, is that once you are honest about your behaviours you can begin to track them. Consider keeping notes on your behaviours for a month or so. Write down when and how you self harm, as well as how you were feeling before the behaviour and how you were feeling after. You might begin to see a pattern emerge. If you are ready to find alternative ways of handling your emotions, consciously think through your actions before you self harm. Could you leave the area and go out somewhere instead? Could you take a shower and see if you still want to behave the same way afterwards? Could you call a friend and socialise until the urge passes? Experiment with different ways of avoiding self harming. In the meantime, f you do continue to self harm, ensure that any injuries you inflict on yourself are properly treated and cared for, even if it means revealing them to a medical professional.
Get Help for Self Harming
Self harming is often confusing to those who engage in it, and you will likely need professional help to sort through this confusion. There are many ways that you can find this help, though some of them require sharing your secret with others. Teachers, coaches, a school nurse, a member of your clergy and your GP are all adults to whom you can turn for support and information. If you truly don’t want to talk to a close adult, consider visiting Childline (www.childline.org.uk), the National Self Harm Network (www.nshn.co.uk), the Samaritans (www.samaritans.org.uk) and Young Minds (www.youngminds.org.uk), a charity devoted to mental health issues as they affect young people. Remember, others are available to support you in your quest to end self harming – take them up on their offers to help.