Making yourself ill is usually a way of trying to deal with difficult feelings. It may feel like it helps at the moment, but in the long run, it can make you feel worse. There are other ways to feel better, and there is help to get.

What is self-harm behavior?

To harm oneself, or to have a self-harming behavior, can mean that you hurt your body in some way, or that you expose yourself to something harmful or risky. It is usually a way to try to deal with difficult feelings. Physical pain can be perceived as easier to endure than emotional pain.

Some may experience relief just when they are hurting. But the anxiety and the difficult-to-handle emotions usually come back and can then be even stronger. Over time, the problems often get bigger. Therefore, harming yourself is not a good solution. It can prevent you from finding other ways to handle the situation.

Life can be better

It can be hard to believe that life can be different when you are in the middle of it. But it can. There are other, better ways to deal with painful feelings.

You can stop hurting yourself. There is good help to be had. Many who have been in similar situations have escaped them. Since self-harm behavior usually gets worse over time, it is important that you get help to stop hurting yourself as soon as possible.

Tell someone how you feel

It is good to tell someone how you are feeling, no matter why you are hurting. It usually feels nice. Others may not have understood how you feel. From the outside, maybe everything seems good or as usual. 

Putting words into thoughts and feelings can also help you see the situation more clearly. The listener may be able to help you see other perspectives and suggest other options. 

Injury can be addictive

To hurt yourself is something you can easily “get stuck in”. You start to see it as an alternative and with time it becomes difficult to stop. It is common to think more and more about being hurt. The more you hurt yourself, the more often you get the impetus to do it again. 

It can start with trying to hurt yourself at some point because you are in trouble. Later you may feel even worse, and hurt yourself again. So it can continue. Over time, you may feel an increasing need to harm yourself. It becomes something you feel you have to do in certain situations to feel calm.

At the same time, it can make you feel worse and worse. 

Self-feeling is affected 

Self-harm is often linked to self-esteem. When you hurt yourself, it can affect your self-respect and how you look at yourself. You may feel angry or disappointed in yourself and may have thoughts that you are not worth anything.

Some people get suicidal thoughts. It is also common to feel ashamed for hurting yourself, even though you have not done anything wrong. 

To stop hurting yourself

You can stop hurting yourself. Changing behavior can be difficult, but you can often do more than you think.

Injuring yourself often solves a problem for the moment. But that almost always means that the problems become bigger in the long run. Injury to oneself usually prevents one from finding other ways of dealing with emotions and solving problems.

There is almost always a purpose to harm yourself. Does it help you deal with difficult feelings and thoughts? Does it make others understand how difficult you are? It says something about what you need. But you need to get it in other ways.

There are many ways to work to strengthen yourself and feel better. Here are some tips. The important thing is that you find a way that suits you. 

Tell someone how you feel

Often it feels good to tell someone how to feel. Putting words on your thoughts and feelings can make it easier to see the situation more clearly. The listener may be able to help with other perspectives and alternatives. 

You can also try to write about what you feel. Show what you have written to someone else if you want. 

What situations trigger you?

One important thing is to think about what makes you want to hurt yourself. Think about it: In what situations will your desire hurt you? What do you feel and think in those moments? The answers to these questions can give you important information about what you need to help. 

Strengthen yourself with good habits 

You should change a behavior, something you may be used to doing. It may be difficult at first, but it will be easier if you can keep these habits:

  • Make sure you get enough sleep and rest.
  • Eat good food at regular times.
  • Move frequently, such as walking or exercising.

Avoid alcohol and other drugs. It makes you feel worse in the long run.

By taking care of yourself, you make yourself less vulnerable.

Find other ways to express feelings

You need to find other ways to calm and comfort yourself than to hurt yourself. It may be easier to endure difficult feelings if you focus on something completely different.

Instead of hurting you: take a shower, go out and run, watch a movie, call a friend or do something else that you think might work for you. Some like to go out in nature, others feel better about writing what they think and feel.

Do you have strong feelings that you need to get out of? Try to find a new way that suits you. Here are some suggestions: scream loud, sing, dance to wild music, work hard, cry or hit a pillow. You can write your own list that you can create when you need it.

Get rid of what you hurt yourself with. It may be the first attempt at a solution.

Stop judging yourself

Practice identifying different emotions that you are experiencing. Feel how it feels. Are you sad, angry, scared or anything else? If you are sad, you probably need to mourn and get comfort. If you are scared, you may need protection or help to cope with something that feels difficult.

Feelings are often enhanced by our thoughts. You may think that you should not feel like you do or that it is wrong in some way. Such judgmental thoughts will not help you. 

Practice staying in difficult emotions

Practice staying in the feeling for a while, rather than trying to get away from it all at once. If you have anxiety, it may feel like it first gets stronger and stronger. But after a while, it does not increase anymore. It is usually the same as the desire to hurt oneself. This is something you need to practice. Every time you exercise, you can endure longer. 

Being able to stay in difficult emotions is something you can also get professional help with. Maybe you have a difficult life situation that you need help to get out of. 

Talk or chat anonymously

There are phone numbers that you can call to talk to someone when you are feeling bad. You can be anonymous whenever you want.

There are also serious places on the internet where you can read, chat or email to tell and get support and help.

Do something you longed for

You can also be strengthened by finding new interests or investing in something you previously thought you would like to do. Is there anything you long to do? When you are in the middle of something difficult, it may feel like you can’t do much. Challenge that feeling, and still try to do what you want. It can make you feel better. 

You are not your self-harming behavior

Try to think like this: A self-harming behavior is not something you are. It’s something you do. You are worthy of it.

What has helped others?

What could be the cause of one’s success in changing one’s behavior? Here are quotes from real people who have stopped hurting themselves:

  • For me, it turned around when I resumed my old interests and started dancing and playing the piano again.
  • I thought it turned around when I met my boyfriend and started socializing with people who lived in other lives.
  • I thought it was good to do things in new environments where I just got to be “me”, for example when I went on a course in turning and painting.
  • I start every day by looking at myself in the mirror and saying to myself that I really am as good as I am and that this will be a great day!
  • I had to take more and more responsibility within an organization and it really helped me further.
  • I needed to find what I was and what I liked to do.

To tell and get support from others

It is important that you talk to someone if you have started to hurt yourself or if you feel strongly that you want to do it. Putting words on their thoughts in front of a person listening can help you find new ways to look at your difficulties and discover new ways to solve them. For example, you can start by telling how you feel about someone you trust. Write an SMS, e-mail or letter if it feels easier.

You may need to gather strength and will to seek help and receive help. It is not uncommon to be hesitant to stop hurting yourself if it has become a habit. Ask someone else for help to make the first contact if you feel it is difficult to do it yourself.

Contact someone on a guide

There are people you can talk to but still be anonymous if you want. For example, you can call the  Help bar. The responders are trained psychologists, socio-genomes and nurses and have extensive experience in supporting people in crisis. There you can also get advice on how to apply for further help.

There are also other phone calls or chat calls that you can contact. Both you as help-seekers and those who respond can be anonymous.

You can also contact a non-profit organization that works to support people with self-harm behavior. At the association SHEDO, you can read more, chat or email to tell and get support and help.

When should I seek care?

Seek help as soon as possible if you have started to hurt yourself. Someone who is used to helping people who are injured can make an assessment, so you can jointly come to whatever help is needed.

If you are under 18 years of age

You who are under 18 may contact a  youth clinic, student health or child and adolescent psychiatry, bup. At some bup-clinics, you will need a  referral from the health center.

If you are over 18 years of age

You who are 18 years of age or older can book time at a  health care center,   psychiatric ward or reception or at occupational health care if you work. You who are up to 20-25 years can also contact a youth reception. The age limit varies between different youth centers.

If you are a student you can contact the student health, if the problems are related to the studies of the university. In some locations, there are psychiatric clinics for young adults up to 25 years.

Try again if the help didn’t work

If you have previously received help somewhere but do not think it worked, try again somewhere else.

Talking to different people can work well. It is also different from how it feels during different periods. Sometimes it may take time before it feels right to receive help.

Why do you hurt yourself?

Physically injuring oneself is usually a way of trying to deal with difficult feelings. It is often difficult to stay in experiences such as anxiety, stress, emptiness, despair, anger or worry. We humans sometimes do everything in order to not have to experience distressing feelings. Physical pain can be perceived as easier to endure than what is felt inside. You may be depressed, depressed, or otherwise having difficulty. Sometimes you know why you feel bad, sometimes not.

Sometimes the injury is a way to calm or punish oneself. It can also be a way to feel something when you feel empty or stunned. It can be a way of showing others that something is wrong and that you need help. Sometimes self-harm is due to something else. There are often several reasons for injuring yourself.

To harm oneself does not mean that one wants to die, but one can still risk one’s life. Your self-harm behavior needs to be taken seriously.

What happens when I seek help?

During the first meeting, you are told why you are there. You can also talk about how you feel and about your life situation. The person you meet may ask when you started hurting yourself and what you think it is due to. It is good to try to put words into what you are thinking and feeling, in order to get as much help as possible. It’s okay to cry and show that you’re feeling bad.

You can get different types of help

What help you get depends on how much and how long you have hurt yourself, and what it is because you hurt yourself. Sometimes a call is enough, sometimes several are needed. You can get treatment for other problems at once if needed. 

You can get help finding other ways to deal with painful feelings at the moment. It can be difficult at first and it is something you will need to practice. You get help from your therapist. 

Going to talk to someone can help you understand more about yourself and about the situations that start the feeling of wanting to hurt you. You can see why you feel the way you do and why you do in a certain way in certain situations. You can talk about other things than hurt yourself, for example, if difficult things have happened in your life.

You have the right to be involved

You have the right to be involved in deciding what treatment you should receive. Ask questions if it’s something you don’t understand. You can also ask to have the information translated or written down to read it in peace. In order for the help to work, it is important that it feels good for you and that you have confidence in the person you meet. Ask to meet someone else if it doesn’t feel good. 

If you want to know more

There are good books that can help you who are hurting yourself or you who belong to someone who is hurting yourself. Here are some tips:

  • Sometimes there are no simple answers, Ego Nova, 2013. The book can be ordered or downloaded to read on the tablet.
  • To survive – about self-harm behavior by Sofia Åkerman. Nature & Culture, 2009
  • To live a life, not win a war by Anna Kåver. Nature & Culture, 2005
  • The association SHEDO has collected tips on how to deal with difficult feelings rather than self-harm.

Self-harm behavior project

Ego Nova

EgoNova is an information project on self-harm behavior and the double problem self-harm behavior/eating disorder problem that is implemented by the association SHEDO. The purpose is to increase knowledge, work against prejudice and stigmatization and show that it is possible to recover. Read more on Ego Nova’s website.

National self-harm project

All county councils cooperate in the  National Self-Injury Project, to develop and coordinate knowledge about young people at risk of or who already have serious self-harm behavior. The overall goal of the project is to reduce the number of young people with self-harm behavior.

Ehtisham Nadeem

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