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Self-harming is often a way for a person to try and cope with particularly difficult or distressing emotions and thoughts that they are experiencing.

It can be a way for a person to try and relieve a build-up of pressure, providing them with short-term relief from their distressing emotions or thoughts. However, the relief felt is only ever temporary, as the underlying reasons for the self-harm remain the same. This can cause someone to become involved in continued self-harming behaviours, such as cutting or burning.

This temporary relief that self-harm gives someone is then often followed by feelings of shame and guilt, which can maintain and reinforce the self-harming behaviours.

How do I know if someone is self-harming?

Self-harming behaviours can be prompted by various triggers, such as difficulties in the home environment, being bullied, experiencing depression, anxiety or low self-esteem, difficulties with substance use, or work and school pressures.

It can be difficult at times to know if someone is self-harming or not. However, some warning signs to look for include:

  • Increased isolation or withdrawal
  • Changes in mood, activities, sleeping and eating
  • Decrease in enjoyment, interest and motivation
  • Expressing thoughts of harming themselves; wanting to hurt or punish themselves
  • Feelings of failure, worthlessness and hopelessness
  • Risk taking behaviours
  • Unexplained cuts, bruises or burns
  • Covering up all the time (even in hot weather), wearing long sleeves, pants, scarves etc.

How to talk to someone you think may be self-harming

If you are worried that someone close to you may be self-harming, set some time aside so that you can talk to them face-to-face. Choose a time and a place with no interruptions or distractions, so that you are able to give them your full attention. This will show that you are there for them, and are willing to listen and support.

When you start to talk, acknowledge that it is a sensitive topic and may be difficult to talk about. However, voice your concern and ask them how they are feeling at the moment.

Talking about self-harm can be difficult for a person to speak about, and it can also be hard for you to hear. As such, be aware of your own limits and boundaries so that you are not the only person holding their risk. Reassure them that there is support available, and explore how you could help them to access professional support. Going along to the first appointment with them can be beneficial.

For more practical tips, please visit the Priory UK site, for further information on what to do if your child is self-harming.

What support is available at Priory Wellbeing Centre Dubai?

At Priory Wellbeing Centre Dubai, our therapists and psychiatrists can assess the person’s needs and tailor treatment for the individual. Therapists can utilise a range of treatment modalities, including DBT, CBT, ACT and mindfulness to support the person to address underlying issues, and target self-harming behaviours in order to help them to build more helpful coping strategies. Our psychiatrists can also assist with medication, if this is needed.

For further information on how we can help, you can call our team in confidence on: (+971) 4 245 3800 or submit an enquiry form to receive a free telephone consultation to understand the treatment options available.

Nadia Brooker is a New Zealand trained and registered Counselling Psychologist, who holds a Masters of Health Science in Psychology. She has previously worked at the Regional Eating Disorders Service, as well as in the private tertiary setting at AUT University in Auckland, New Zealand.

Nadia is able to assist patients with personal, social and vocational functioning by using psychological assessments and interventions, as well as preventative approaches. Nadia’s approach to working with patients is holistic and client centred. She uses a variety of models, however primarily works using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) for both adolescents and adults. Nadia has also trained in Eating Disorder specific treatment modalities.