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How self-harm works

What young people have said:

  • Distraction - the physical pain takes the focus away from the emotional pain.
  • Self-punishing - some experience self-hatred or blame and use self-harm to punish themselves.
  • Cleansing - may be a way of symbolically ridding themselves of contamination, often as a result of abuse.
  • Control - may be a way of regaining control, by being in charge of their injuries.
  • Communication - as a means of letting people know something without using words.
  • Comfort - a release of tension, or a means of seeking care and nurture from others,
  • Making themselves unattractive - to keep someone away, fear of sexual abuse.
  • Feeling real or alive - pain can be a way of breaking through feelings of numbness and of actually experiencing something.