Causes of self harm
The causes of self harm are the things that set it off in the first place – not necessarily what makes the individual continue to self harm.
The causes of self harm may be:
• abuse (sexual, emotional or physical)
• school/work pressures
• family financial difficulties
• housing problems
• relationship troubles
• family problems
• eating disorders
• drug/alcohol problems
• coming to terms with sexuality
…or any experience or event that causes negative feelings, thoughts and tensions.
Quite a lot of these reasons are common occurrences in today’s society and are not always preventable. As parents we struggle with feelings of guilt and inadequacy when we discover that our child has been self harming. There is so much depth to emotional problems that the cause of your child’s self harm may not be the one you find the most obvious. So don’t stand around blaming yourself. I did find it helpful to ask my daughter to forgive me for handling some of our family ‘issues’ and I can speak from experience when I say that it is important to forgive yourself too.
For some individuals, an episode of self harm may be triggered by a significant life event, but for others the day to day fluctuation in their thoughts and feelings is too much to bear. Simple stresses can be enough to create a tension so overwhelming in the individual that they self harm to cope with this. Be on the lookout for these times. Get to know what simple events your child finds stressful and put some sort of strategy into place to help eg. helping with organizing tasks, homework schedules, planning, diary keeping. Once my daughter was getting very stressed as she had so much to do, I sat with her and made her tell me everything she had to achieve, and what her deadlines were. Within minutes we had written down a schedule and her work had suddenly become achievable.
How about laying out school uniform the night before -and making sure their shoes are by the front door. To those who find everyday tasks stressful, these little things can mean a lot. They also show that you care!
For some, self harm can become a habit; something they routinely do to survive on a day to day basis because they don’t know what else to do.
Sometimes, even ‘positive’ experiences can create overwhelming feelings in the individual that they do not know how to manage.
For all individuals the starting point for recovery is to become aware of their reasons for self harming; then they can learn to respond differently to their difficulties.
Recovery is always possible, however lost and overwhelmed the person feels.