Self-harm does not mean that someone is ‘mad’ or ‘weird’. What it usually means is that someone is experiencing distressing feelings. This may be the result of a current situation – or it may be a result of past experiences that the person, for whatever reason, has not been able to deal with at an earlier time in their life. Eventually these feelings and distress reach a point that the person finds unbearable and is unable to cope with them anymore. People who self-harm describe how the action of hurting themselves can help them to:
- feel a sense of control, through choosing how and when to hurt themselves
- experience some comfort during the act of self-harm, or in the self-care or medical care that may follow
- distract themselves from inner emotional pain by focussing on the act of self-harm
- communicate their emotional distress by making it solid and visible in the form of a wound
- feel real, during times of feeling emotionally numb and cut-off
- feel a sense of release or relief of their emotional distress through the act of self-injury
- Above all, self-harm is a survival strategy; a way of coping with painful feelings, of staying alive and continuing to function.