Self harm: the underlying causes
Self-harm is more common than many people realise, especially among younger people
It’s estimated around ten per cent of young people self-harm at some point, but people of all ages do.
This figure is also likely to be an underestimate, as not everyone seeks help.
In most cases, people who self-harm do it to help them cope with overwhelming emotional issues, which may be caused by:
Social problems – such as being bullied, having difficulties at work or school, having difficult relationships with friends or family, coming to terms with their sexuality if they think they might be gay or bisexual, or coping with cultural expectations, such as an arranged marriage.
Trauma – such as physical or sexual abuse, the death of a close family member or friend, or having a misca-rriage.
Psychological causes – such as having repeated thoughts or voices telling them to self-harm, disasso-ciating (losing touch with who they are and with their surroundings), or borderline personality disorder.
These issues can lead to a build-up of intense feelings of anger, guilt, hopelessness and self-hatred.
The person may not know who to turn to for help and self-harming may become a way to release these pent-up feelings.
Self-harm is linked to anxiety and depression. These mental health conditions can affect people of any age.
Self-harm can also occur alongside antisocial beha-viour, such as misbehaving at school or getting into trouble with the police.
Although some people who self-harm are at a high risk of suicide, many people who self-harm don’t want to end their lives.
In fact, the self-harm may help them cope with emotional distress so they don’t feel the need to kill themselves.