Self-Harm

Self-harm is a very common problem, and many people struggle to deal with it. Perhaps you feel or have felt the need to harm yourself. Perhaps you have been self-harming for some time. Or maybe you have a friend, or family member who is self-harming and you want to learn more to help them.

Counselling and/or psychotherapy can help you better understand self-harm – why it happens, how to deal with it, and how to recover from what can become a very painful and destructive cycle.

What is self-harm?

The phrase ‘self-harm’ is used to describe a range of behaviours that people do to deliberately harm themselves. It can involve:

  • cutting
  • breaking bones
  • burning
  • scalding
  • banging or scratching one’s own body
  • hair pulling
  • swallowing poisonous substances or objects

 

Understanding Self-Harm

Self-harm can be difficult to understand and can bring much confusion and anxiety – both for those who do it and for those who care about them. It tends to be an unspoken problem, with those suffering finding it hard to talk about it, without receiving judgement or stigma. The most important thing to understand is that you can recover from a pattern of self-harm, and from feeling the urge to harm yourself.

Self-harm is generally cutting, scratching, burning and pulling hair out. It is usually a very secret activity, where cuts and scratches are kept hidden.

Often the initial action or the period of preparation beforehand can bring exhilaration and feelings of intoxication. However it usually brings only a short and temporary release and the person is left feeling guilty and ashamed afterwards. Self-harming behaviour tends to develop an addictive or compulsive quality. As a result, those who start can sometimes find it difficult to know how to stop.

When an individual arrives at a point of self-harming in this way, they don’t have a full understanding of the reasons behind their behaviour and can feel a sense of being out of control. Often times the person knows clearly what their behaviour is an indicator of, be it a reaction to trauma, turbulent emotions or destructive relationships.

In either case, if you are self-harming or preoccupied with thoughts of death, suicide or attempts to take your own life, professional support is needed to help you break the pattern of destructive behaviour.

Counselling and/or psychotherapy can help you better understand self-harm – why it happens, how to deal with it, and how to recover. Many find once they are able to talk about their problems and learn how to verbalise difficult emotions with a supportive person, their desire to self-harm lessens.

Counselling for Suicide and Suicidal Thought/Ideation

Common characteristics of suicidal thought and preoccupation, include a sense of unbearable psychological pain, a feeling of isolation from others, and the perception that death is the only solution when you’re temporarily unable to think clearly and are being blinded by overwhelming numbness or pain.

If you identify as at risk of suicide and you want to address self-destructive behaviour, your therapist will carry out a suicide risk assessment to determine whether your suicide risk is low, moderate or high. They will advise whether further treatment and consultation with another healthcare provider is necessary. Risk factors are:

  • Social Stress
  • Personal losses
  • Helplessness and loss of control
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness
  • Exploration around sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Exposure to the suicide of other people
  • Trauma, such as physical and sexual abuse
  • Problems with social interaction, family relationships, work-place stress

 

Therapy will address how you can create protective factors in your life to reduce the risk of suicide and lessen the desire to self-harm in the future. This involves looking at how you can gain access to mental health supports and appropriate care and how to engage support from family, friends, and other significant relationships.

Psychotherapists and counsellors offer a range of interventions to those experiencing moderate to severe self-harming behaviour. These include cognitive behavioural therapies, humanistic and solution focused approaches.

If you identify as at risk of suicide and you want to address self-destructive behaviour call us now on 01-891 0703 or email info@insightmatters.ie for a confidential discussion and initial assessment with one of our senior therapists. Alternatively please fill in the online booking form and we will contact you within 24 hours.

Insight Matters also offers Counselling for Suicide Bereavement