Helping you get through tough times

Self-harm

Welcome to ReachOut.com’s Ask the Expert service

Through this service the ReachOut.com team will be working with a group of professionals and experts with detailed and specialist knowledge of youth mental health issues such as anxiety and depression to answer your questions and address your concerns. The issues covered will be the same as those covered throughout ReachOut.com but through this service we will be able to provide valuable insight into more specific and personal concerns that you may have.

This month

Each month we will concentrate on one particular mental health area and work, mainly, with one specific collaborator. Rory O’Connor was our featured expert for the month of January and again, in October and took your questions about self-harm.

Sam says:
Hello, i don’t really know how to go about asking this or what i want to ask really but everyone always tells me that self harm is wrong and i should stop doing it and i know from a rational point of view maybe should stop. But it helps me cope with feeling i otherwise can’t control, it helps me by hurting myself, punishing myself for what i’ve done wrong, like when ihurt other people when they see what i’ve done or when i say something stupid, so really it’s not that bad. As children if we did wrong we were told off for it so now this is my way of telling myself off when i do wrong. There’s a part of me telling me i need to be punished , and then the cutting helps me deal with that strong sense of emotions that i’m bad. So sorry after all that, my question is is self harm really that wrong?
Sam

Hi Sam

It’s understandable that self-harm helps you get through overwhelming emotions and has become a coping mechanism for you but it is possible to learn other mechanisms that don’t involve harming yourself.

It’s normal to feel bad about ourselves when we’ve done something wrong or accidentally said something stupid, but it’s important to remember we all make mistakes. Perhaps you are being too critical of yourself? We can all judge ourselves much harsher than others see us. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of negative thinking or to blame yourself for things that aren’t really your fault.

There are ways that you can work on putting things into perspective so that you don’t feel the need to “punish” yourself on these occasions. Have a look at self-talk to work on negative thoughts about yourself.

From your comment it seems that you worry about others, what they think about you and the effect you have on them. You should try to be less critical of yourself.

Although self-harm is a coping mechanism, there are less damaging ways for you to cope with emotional distress. So it isn’t about being right or wrong but about finding better ways of coping which work for you.

Maybe you could talk to someone you trust about this or your GP? If you do choose to talk to your GP about this it may be helpful to make a list of feelings, situations or thoughts you need to discuss as it can be very hard to reveal this to someone for the first time and let them know from the outset how difficult this is for you. The GP may also be able to refer you to someone to talk you about how you feel.

Everyone deserves to feel good about themselves and know that they are a good person. Take care of yourself, eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep, these will not make the need to self-harm go away but can can help you all round with your feelings of well being.

Take care Sam

Debbie says:
Hi there , I’ve been self harming for years and have made several a ttempts to overcome my issues, recieving help from professionals twice.I have seriously reduced the sggresiveness with which I self harm and no longer feel as though it poses any immediate serious danger . Ive also reduced the frequency with which I self harm . Problem is , I find it near impossible to go longer than a couple of weeks without doing it . I was wondering what the view of this kind of behaiour would be with a professional . ? Is it still considered a serious issue , or could it be more accepted now that I’m older and not don’t act on impulse the way I used to, in fact my self harming is now a calculated descisio, but one that yes, I feel I still have no choice but to make.
Debbie

Hi Debbie

It sounds like you have made some serious steps to learn to manage your self-harm. Committing to learning new coping mechanisms and enlisting the help of professionals must not have been easy but it was the right thing to do.

You say you still “find it near impossible to go longer than a couple of weeks without doing it” and that although you feel that self-harming is a calculated decision for you, it is a decision you feel you have no choice about.

Although you have done great work in reducing the risk of your self-harm it sounds like some more help from professionals may be helpful. It is of course still a serious issue and the fact that you are leaving this comment means it is still something you want to change. It may be helpful to keep a diary of your thoughts and feelings and anything else which seems relevant. This could help you to figure out any patterns or triggers to the self-harm and also things that help you to feel better.

It is important to keep building on the important work you have already done so that you can learn ways to deal with whatever life throws at you and the emotions you experience without feeling like you have no choice but to hurt yourself.

When we go through tough times it is all to easy to fall back into old familiar patterns of behaviour. We all get overwhelmed from time to time and it is important for you to stay mindful of this so as not to fall back into a pattern of self-harming.

Kind regards and good luck

Rory

Beccah says:
i think i might have depression my brother died two years ago and up until last month i have been coping well but now all i do is cry and i cut myself simetimes but i dont know if i have depression or just grieveing? im 13 years old

Hi Beccah

I’m really sorry to hear of your loss. Losing a family member can be one of the toughest things you go through. Everyone reacts to death differently and you may have been coping well because it was hard to take it all in or believe what happened.

People can go through different stages after they lose someone. They can feel numb, angry and very sad. All of these feelings are normal- sounds like you are struggling with some of these feelings. It’s really important to know you’ll get through this.

Could you talk to someone in your family about your feelings of grief as they may be having similar feelings?

It will be hard but talking to someone you trust about your feelings of grief and about cutting yourself could help you get the support you need. If it is too hard to talk to your family about this is there a teacher or someone at school like a school counsellor who you trust? It is sometimes easier to talk someone who is not feeling the same way as you.

Self-harming is a way that people use to cope with really strong feelings. But it doesn’t get rid of the problem. It sounds like you have already worked out that this isn’t the best way for you to cope with these feelings and you are keen to figure out others ways to make yourself feel better. Take a look at self-harm for how to get help or release your feelings.

It does sound like a cliché but time will help your grieving and with the right support you can get through these feelings of pain without hurting yourself.

Take care

Rory

Dan says:
Hi, I had something happen to me as a child that I have realised is affecting me now as an adult. When I was about 5, a number of incidents involving kids my own age, or a little older, did inappropriate things to me. I suppressed the memories, but it affected my behaviour from then on.
I was an out-going, chatty child, but I started to become introverted. I no longer felt good about myself, and I lost all my confidence, all my spark. I think it also caused to me to gain weight, as every time I did something to improve my health and look better, I’d just binge eat. My mother did notice and it caused arguments because I couldn’t communicate what was going on inside me emotionally.
Fast-forward to university: I voluntarily started to go to counseling to try to understand who I was, and why I was just coasting through life. All the memories came out during counseling and although it was extremely beneficial, and helped me understand myself more, it resulted in a panic attack in a test situation later.
My past has also affected my relationships where I find it easier to interact physically than emotionally, even though I want to be able to be with someone that I click with on all levels.
I have worked through my past, but it’s the learned behaviour, left over as coping mechanisms (e.g. over-eating/binge-eating, and avoiding proper communication in relationships, etc.), that are becoming a hindrance in my life. I want to be happy, and I want to get out of my own way!
It’s like when a tumour is removed, even though it’s gone, the scar still remains.
Any advice would be really appreciated.
Thanks for reading.

Hi Dan

It is really great that you have been able to identify the behaviours that are affecting your life and relationships negatively and are looking for healthier mechanisms for coping and communicating. Identifying this and being open to seeking help and changing the patterns you have fallen into is a really great first step.

You say that you have seen a counsellor before and that you found the experience extremely beneficial. Is this something you would be open to trying again? Talking to a professional will give you a different perspective and help you come up with strategies for new ways of coping and communicating.

I know you said that you stopped counselling when you had an anxiety attack in an exam. Exams are a really stressful situation and I am not going to deny that counselling can often bring up painful emotions and memories that can be hard to deal with. If you think that the counselling process is likely to cause you anxiety again you could talk this through with your counsellor so that you have strategies to manage the anxiety and avoid having an attack. Or you may want to speak to your GP and ask to be referred to a psychologist?

You deserve to be happy and finding the right professional to talk to will make all the difference.

Kind regards and good luck

Rory

Saoirse says:
I don’t think I’ve been actually happy for at least 2 years now. Over the last 6 months its intensified, I’m a mess. All i think about is suicide, i cry a lot. One friend knows what a mess i am, and i had a bit of a breakdown in front of a teacher but i didn’t really talk. I think I’ve got depression. I know i should go to my schools counselor, but I don’t really know if it will benefit, and the trust is a bit worrying.. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable going to my parents about it either.. I also cut for the first time yesterday because I hate myself, and everything about me so so much. I really just don’t know what to do, or who to go to?

Hi Saoirse

I am really sorry to hear that you haven’t been happy now and that things have intensified recently.

You are wondering whether it would be beneficial to speak to the schools counsellor. I think it would be. It would be really helpful to speak to someone who you feel comfortable with, so that could be the schools counsellor, your parents, another adult who you trust or another health professional like a GP. If you are thinking about suicide, I would advise you to see your GP or schools counsellor as soon as you can.

You mentioned that you are concerned about trust, it is useful to remember that no-one wants you to be sad, the health professionals will want to help you. By talking to the schools counsellor or your GP, you may be able to better understand why you are feeling the way you are, to think of other ways to cope with how you are feeling so that you don’t have to cut yourself.

I hope this is helpful and that you go to see your schools counsellor or GP as they will be able to help you.

Take care

Rory

Julie says:
iv recently lost my job got denied my grant for college iv bills coming in thretning court i have no financial support i cant sleep i cant stop crying my head seems to be in overdrive all the time i constantly snap at people when i dont mean to and i cant get out of bed i just cant find the energy or reason too any more im exhausted mentally physically and emotionally iv self harmed in the past and binged don alcahol and drugs i dont want to go down that road again but im terrified thats where im heading im terrified i have nothing else left in my life that everythings going wrong nothing can get any worse than it already is but i cant see things getting any better nothing makes me happy any more i just want to hide away i panic about the taughts of having to drop out of college which is something i dont want to do as this is what i want this is something iv waited years to do i dont want to throw it away but i just cant cope anymore i cant afford to go to my gp as im stone cold broke can u offer any advice please i feel like im going insane

Hi Julie

I am really sorry to hear about the difficulties that you are going through at the minute. I know you may not think it at the minute, but things will get better over time. As you say you are feeling pretty exhausted mentally and physically but you are not going insane – so I think it would be really good to speak to someone about how you are feeling. Speaking to someone at Samaritans might be helpful – as it is good to talk to someone else about how you are feeling and you can do so confidentially. It is surprising how speaking to someone else can help you feel better about yourself and help think about your concerns in a different way. It may also be worth speaking to someone at the college, the college may have a counsellor who you can talk to. It is also good to hear that you don’t want to go down the self-harm, alcohol and drugs path again. As you say in your message, you have always wanted to go to college and it is great that you are going to continue with this.

Best wishes for the future

Rory

Alex says:
Hi, Em i only found out about this website from the Midday show and i have been looking for a website like this because i just need someone to talk to, i need help. I live in the rural west and its not exactly the friendliest place for a Gay person. I just basically feel lonely all the time! and its so depressing.

Hi Alex,

As your question isn’t Rory’s speciality, the ReachOut.com team have responded.

Thanks for your comment, we’re really glad you found us and we hope we can help! The ReachOut team are replying to you by email as our expert this month is taking questions on self-harm. We have lots of useful information about sexuality and coming out, which may be helpful to read, you can visit this section of ReachOut.com http://ie.reachout.com/inform-yourself/sexuality-and-coming-out/ to find out more.

It can feel really isolating and lonely when we feel we have no one to talk to or people we can be ourselves around. It can feel especially lonely in rural areas where we may not think that there are many other gay people around. You’re not alone though, there are lots of people going through similar things and it can really help to talk to people who can understand.

The organisation, Belong To, run youth groups all across the country for LGBT young people. They have groups in the west and you can find your closest group by checking here: http://www.belongto.org/groups.aspx. Belong To also have forums where you can chat to other people who may be going through similar experiences; you can find the forums here http://www.belongto.org/topics.aspx. We hope that through either the youth groups or the forums that you can find a friend to talk to.

If you’re ever feeling lonely and want to talk to someone day or night, you can contact the Samaritans 24 hours a day by calling 1850 60 90 90 or by emailing jo@samaritans.org.

You’re not alone in this; there are lots of people you can talk to and we hope that ReachOut.com and BelongTo can help.

Take care,

Fenella

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