Cambridge Independent Neuroscience and Psychiatry Services
Deliberate Self Harm
What is deliberate self harm?

Some young people deliberately harm themselves.  Various methods are used, such as cutting with objects such as a knife or broken glass, burning, refusing to eat or taking overdoses.

Self harm is a sign that something serious is wrong and it is always necessary to seek advice from your GP or a trained and experienced mental health professional.

Is it attention seeking?

No, it is usually very unhelpful to see self harm as attention seeking and it is often very inaccurate.  Self harm in children and young people must be taken very seriously and an understanding of the behaviour must be a priority as part of a comprehensive mental health, bio-psycho-social and risk assessment. 

Why do young people self harm?

There are no easy answers to this question and multiple factors are often involved.

Many young people struggle to communicate emotions and young people and children often communicate their emotions and thoughts through behaviour rather than communicating 'feelings', for instance, child feeling sad will often kick a toy rather than say he or she is sad.  

Self harm can also be a coping mechanism to manage very difficult emotions.  Young people often describe a 'release' after self harming, where the intensity of their intolerable emotions decrease immediately.

Some young people cope with trauma by pretending that it never happened and they become detached