Understanding Self Harm

What is self harm?

Self-harm involves intentionally causing injury to oneself, often as a manifestation of a psychological disturbance which is commonly triggered by an acute stressor or an interpersonal conflict.

It is also called self injurious behaviour or deliberate self-harm. It can take many forms including medication overdose or poisoning and wounding oneself via cutting, headbanging or burning.

Why does a child self harm?

Self-harm in the majority of young people is in response to strong emotions which are often felt in the extremes for example anger and sadness.

The physical act of self-harm can be a form of release which helps to stop a person feeling the overwhelming extremes of these emotions, providing some respite from the intensity of the emotions they are experiencing.

Self-harm is a complex behaviour pattern that is used when a child can’t regulate their emotions in alternative forms. The pattern of behaviour can be cyclical, with negative thoughts and behaviours perpetuating one another, as demonstrated below. With the correct support the cycle can be broken.

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