Self-harm is when someone hurts themselves as a coping mechanism to deal with difficult feelings, memories, or overwhelming situations. It can be obvious, such as hurting themselves physically by cutting or through eating disorders (anorexia / bulimia), but also psychological, and can lead people to put themselves in harm’s way by engaging in risky behaviours, or not looking after their emotional needs for example.
Ways of self-harming are numerous. Cutting, eating disorders, hitting oneself, hair pulling are some of the most common ones. They provide temporary feelings of relief and control, but can also give birth to other emotions as difficult to handle, like shame.
Self-harm is sometimes dismissed by people as an attention-seeking behaviour, with the implication that it shouldn’t be rewarded with attention. This attitude makes it even more difficult for people self-harming to admit to it and seek help when they feel that the world will judge them, and they often continue in secret, feeling alienated. Self-harm should never be ignored or its effects underestimated. Yes, it is a cry for help, and it should therefore be answered with compassion.
How to Recognise Self-harm in Others?
Most people who self-harm will hide it, often out of shame. But if you are concerned, there are certain signs that are tale tellers. People insisting on wearing long sleeves at all times even in hot weather could be hiding cuts, or bruises from hitting themselves, or you may notice some inexplicable blood stains on their clothes. Weight loss and teeth damage can be a sign of eating disorders, and hair pulling will be rather difficult to conceal, although unusual hair styles could be an indicator.
Noticing self-harming in a loved one can be very distressing as it is such a violent act against oneself, which often leaves relatives feeling traumatised and helpless. It can also be difficult to know how to start such an emotionally charged discussion and this is when seeking professional help is advisable.
How Can the Robert Street Clinic Help?
There are many reasons why people self-harm. It can be a way to deal with past or present painful experiences, it can result from being under pressure or not in control of your life, abuse, bullying, feeling numb, or as a way to express something that you can’t put into words.
The important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t feel ashamed if you self-harm, and you don’t need to understand why you are doing it before you seek help.
The Robert Street Clinic is a practice of psychiatrists, psychotherapists and counsellors in Auckland, NZ. Our experienced team of clinicians offers a supportive and respectful environment where you can express yourself freely without fear of being judged.
Our treatment plans are tailored to each individual depending on their needs and backgrounds to ensure that we offer them the most appropriate care.
If you are looking for counselling in Auckland City to help you cope with self-harm or are concerned that a loved one is harming themselves, contact us or call us on 09 973 5950 for confidential and professional advice.