Talking About Self-harm

self harm feelingsSelf-harm is not just about cutting or burning, its also excessive drinking or drug use and other things that you know will cause harm to your self. I like and many people with mental illness self harm and I can only speak for myself to the reasons why, but I will assume that many others will share my reasoning.

Self-harm is not the first choice

The first thing is that self-harm is never the first option but it can be accidentally the last option. For me self-harm is like a volume dial to turn down the internal dialogue / noise.

Faced with the heavy mood and the constant feeling of worthlessness, self loathing, isolation running around in my head like four year olds banging drums, I will start off with distraction, self sooth, mindfulness, going for a walk etc. These activates can reduce the noise but no more than walking out of the room with the four year olds are and closing the door.

But it’s still their every now and again you open the door and like a wave you feel worse then before and this builds and builds and you will do anything to make it stop.

This leads to suicidal thoughts and acts of self-harm.

Why self-harm works

The sad thing is self-harm works because it changes the brain chemistry quickly. All mental illness involve a chemical imbalance [non confirmed fact] and self-harming by cutting burning causes pain and the release of hormones, while drugs and alcohol have a chemical effect on the brain and cause the release of hormones,

The hormones released are endorphins, endocannabinoids and Dopamine and produce positive feelings.


Effects on Brain


Relieves pain and induce feelings of pleasure or euphoria.


Relieves pain effects memory


Plays a major role in reward-motivated behaviour.

As you can see from the table above the effects are positive although they can become addictive.

Facing up to self-harming

At some point family, friends and medical professionals will become aware that a person is self-harming, either through evidence and / or the person admitting it. Family and friends will often take a person’s self-harm personally and their reaction can be unhelpful. Their belief that they should have been aware or noticed someone pain sooner, they will often blame themselves of the harm caused, they will often over compensate becoming over vigilant.

The fact of the matter a person who self-harms will always find away too. The only thing that is responsibility for self-harm is the mental illness. We need to remove the stigma around self-harm and treat it as a symptom.

Talking about Self-harm

Although therapy sessions will discuss self-harming there is a real need in my opinion to discuss as freely as symptoms of other illness are. I have self-harm on and off since my teens in fact my first suicide attempt was a self-harming gone to far. The reason I say it should be spoken about is although self-harm elevates symptoms the physical scars leave a stigma and a physical reminder of what you went though; even the act of self-harm can be treated an attention seeking by some professional.

I was lucky many years ago a mental health professional was dressing my wounds as I cried about what a failure I was and stupid for cutting up when she stopped me. She proceeded to tell me off for thinking that way and explained it was part of my illness she gave me permission to cut.

She gave me plasters and wipes she explained how to be safe from infections, during the time she normalised self-harming and gave me a voice. With this voice I could say that I wanted to self-harm or things where getting hard and I was losing control. Many years have past and self-harm through cutting has almost vanished and I very aware of my abuse of alcohol and notice when it gets out of hand.

Be aware be mindful

Being mindful is a great tool in recognising moods and helping to relax but to be effective mindfulness should not be a tool but a way of life but it is a difficult skill to master and therapists tend to give very small bits of information on applying mindfulness. Mindfulness will not prevent self-harm but it does allow you to decide whether to or not to self-harm. In most cases I will choose to try another method of distraction, but when I do, I will do it mindfully gathering wipes, plasters this prep can be enough to change my need or get me to call for help, but if I do go through with it its small and very short lived.

The fact that I am aware of my self-harm and I am not ashamed of it, I am not proud of it either but I do call my scares battle wounds and when I look at them I see how far I have come. They also act as a deterrent to future self-harm a final hurdle to self-harm – is the current situation worse than that period of scare or that one if no then it reminds me that I have survived worse and I will survive this one.

If you or anyone near to you experiencing self-harm you can seek help via



Self Harm Support at Harmless

Harmless is a user led organisation that provides a range of services about self harm including support, information, training and consultancy to people who self harm, their friends and families and professionals.

selfharmUK is a project dedicated to supporting young people impacted by self-harm, providing a safe space to talk, ask any questions and be honest about what’s going on in your life.

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About Mr BPD

About Author. I have Borderline Personality Disorder and as a writer and poet I explore my madness through the creative arts. I have a personal belief that even in darkness light exists and it is a personal responsibility to always seek the light and I find the light in creating something.
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