Self-harm is when someone intentionally damages or injures their body, often at times when feelings of distress and anxiety become very intense.

Self-harm is something that is often misunderstood. It is usually associated with cutting, but the reality is more complicated.

There is no universal cause of self-harm. However, self-harm is often a physical response to emotional pain and, can be used as a way of coping with difficult situations or feelings of overwhelm and distress. 

Self-harm can take many forms, including but not limited to:

  • Inflicting physical damage to your body such as cutting, burning, picking, pinching or hitting 
  • Having unprotected sex, or sex you wouldn’t normally have
  • Intentionally putting yourself in risky situations
  • Alcohol or substance use
  • Starving yourself
  • Over-eating
  • Hair pulling
  • Over-exercising 

It is important to know that self-harm is not ‘attention seeking’ and that addressing it requires professional help. You should feel confident in accessing that, just like you would for any other health condition that affects your life.

If you are worried about self-harm, either for yourself or someone you know, you can talk to SX and we can help you to access support.

Self-harm and Gay and Bisexual Men

Self-harm is an issue that disproportionately affects gay, bisexual and all men who have sex with men compared to society as a whole.

Younger men, in particular, report self-harm as a way of coping with the pressures of coming out or dealing with identity.

Why do people self harm?

Self-harm is a way of coping with feelings of emotional distress, anxiety and overwhelm. 

This distress is often linked to issues affecting men in their daily lives: whether it’s social isolation; unemployment; bereavement; relationship problems; money worries; sexual abuse; experiencing discrimination; or worries about their identity. 

People often use self-harm as a way to relive feelings of intense distress and tension or to punish themselves. More than half of people who complete suicide have a history of self-harm.

If you are thinking of harming yourself or have thoughts about suicide, you should seek professional help immediately.

You can call 999, or contact Breathing Space or the Samaritans.