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1 in 10 of us self-harms by taking tablets, cutting, burning, piercing or swallowing objects. Some people self-harm regularly – it can become almost an addiction. Self-harm is usually a symptom of a mental health disorder such as depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, personality disorders, etc.

What makes people self-harm?

It usually happens when you feel very distressed. It can be caused by abuse, feeling depressed, feeling bad about yourself or having relationship problems.

You may do it because you feel:

• not listened to
• hopeless
• isolated
• alone
• out of control
• powerless.

You are more likely to self-harm if you were abused in childhood.

How does it make you feel?

Self-harming can help you feeling in control and less edgy. So, it can be a ‘quick fix’ for feeling bad.

How can you help yourself?

When you want to harm yourself:

• Talk to someone.
• Focus on positives.
• Distract yourself by going out, sing or listen to music, or do anything (harmless) that interests you.
• Try to relax and focus your mind on something pleasant.
• Write a diary or a letter, to explain what is happening to you – no one else needs to see it.
• Find another way to express your feelings such as squeezing ice cubes (make them with red juice to mimic blood if that helps), or draw red lines on your skin.
• Give yourself some ‘harmless pain’ – eat a hot chili, or have a cold shower.

What can you do if you don't want to stop?

If this is the case, try to reduce the damage you may cause yourself. If you cut, use clean blades. Find ways of hurting yourself that don’t damage your body (see How can you help yourself).

What could help?

Talking: Talking can help you to feel less alone, to see your problems more clearly and gain a different perspective.
Self-help groups: People with similar problems can provide support and practical advice – and, believe it or not, sharing your problems in a group does help, you don’t feel alone.
Therapy: Evidenced-based therapies (EMDR, DBT, CRT) and other forms of talk therapy.