Is Self Harm an Addiction?

I have read a few articles and posts online where people have said that they are addicted to self harming. Considering how hard it is to resist hurting yourself when triggered, it is not surprising to hear this word. However is “addiction” the right term to use?

“Addiction is a psychological and physical inability to stop consuming a chemical, drug, activity, or substance, even though it is causing psychological and physical harm”.

The very definition draws up some interesting debates, physical v psychological addictions.

A physical addiction is not controllable. A person who is denied a substance to which they are physically addicted will not have control over their bodies reactions.

Psychological addiction on the other hand is controllable. Gambling or self harm is a behaviour therefore many will argue that however hard these feelings are, they can be managed and controlled.

I am someone who self harms but I have never viewed it as an addiction. The word addiction for me doesn’t sit comfortably because it suggests that I am not in control of my actions. I self harm because of a need to gain control so to say I am addicted would contradict this. I would use the word reliant to define my relationship with self harm. It is my coping mechanism, but it is also a choice that I make and that I am responsible for. Again I feel the word addiction negates that level of responsibility. When I am in crisis, it doesn’t always feel like I have a choice but I do, and on good days I do realise that I need to learn to make better choices.

I am not going to say that someone who says they are addicted to self harm is wrong, but for me I don’t feel it is the right term to use.

Today

I am not feeling very proud of myself. It was a night/day where i couldn’t manage, i let my anxieties get the better of me and i couldn’t cope. I tried everything i could to distract myself, long walks, loud music, trying to focus on work but nothing worked and i gave in to the voice in my head. I was scared to talk today, i thought if i did, someone would take me or my box away and i couldn’t have dealt with that.

Self Harm

The first time I self harmed I was 19. After a traumatic event in my life I started to feel low, anxious and overwhelmed on a daily basis. I was desperate for a release from the distress I was experiencing and from what was going on inside my mind. At the time, physical pain felt easier to deal with than the emotional pain- I could visibly see it and that gave me the feeling of control I needed to take back. It wasn’t attention seeking but instead my only way to communicate the distress that I was feeling. However it soon became my “go to” coping mechanism and a battle that I am still fighting.

People’s reaction to it can vary, some feel shocked, angry, helpless and the worst one is when the other person starts to feel responsible, like they have somehow made you do it. It is why so many don’t speak up, don’t seek help, it is the fear of judgement and that is hard. A few months ago, I didn’t think I could talk about it but I did. Although the people I talked to didn’t understand, they showed a willing to understand and that has been life changing in so many ways. We talk about misconceptions surrounding self harm and mental health and there are, but there are also misconceptions about how we feel people might react. They won’t understand, they won’t care- sometimes you just have to give people a chance too.

“Just because no one else can heal or do your inner work for you, doesn’t mean you can, should, or need to do it alone” (Lisa Olivera)

The Importance of others…

During the last few weeks I have realised just how important the people in my life are. It is often the simplest acts of kindness and expressions of concern that have the greatest impact. I doubt these people would even know their significance but hand on heart I can honestly say they have kept me alive.

“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate”. (Albert Schweitzer)

My Poem

The darkest of depression a familiar place

Where tears run down this empty face

A troubled mind, a broken heart

I didn’t know how to fix it, or where to start.

I drew that blade across me, hoping to see,

The blood trickle out, life escaping me

I didn’t feel scared, I didn’t cry

I thought it was time to say my goodbye

It’s only now that it feels so real

All these emotions, I’m starting to feel

I really need help, can anyone see

I don’t want this to define me

13 years ago I wrote this after I ended up in hospital after trying to take my own life. I was living a life that made no sense, it felt like it had no purpose and no meaning. I stopped caring and lost all sense of reality and consequences. The doctor on shift that night was not overly sympathetic but she said something to me that I clung on to. She said to me, “Don’t make a permanent decision based on temporary emotions”.

In the inside of my phone case on a small scrap piece of paper I have the words of that doctor written down, and if anyone ever reads this, please remember that sentence.

Can mental health be normalised?

During the past 6 months we have all been affected by Covid 19. Things are changing fast with so much uncertainty surrounding us. Those with mental health problems are facing extra challenges, but for some people, they are facing mental health problems for the first time. As a result we are now talking about it more, hopefully breaking down the stigmas attached to it but can we normalise it?

How can we normalise it……….?

By talking about how we feel openly and honestly, letting down our barriers and letting people see our human and often vulnerable side. If others can see and hear us talking about it then they might talk about their own difficulties and struggles.

I know when i feel low, sometimes all i want is for someone to listen, i am not asking for them to fix me, just having someone there can make all the difference.

We need to create some sort of positive from this pandemic and perhaps the increased discussion surrounding mental health can be that. We need to change the stigmas attached to it and create a more understanding society. It should be completely normal if we struggle with our mental health, to be able to ask for help, to get the treatment that we need and for us not to feel ashamed.

Stigma and Discrimination

Stigma is when someone sees you in a negative way and discrimination is when someone treats you in a negative way. I think social stigma and discrimination can make mental health problems worse and stop a person from getting the help that they need.

Society in general has stereotyped views about mental illness and how it affects people. . My blog has got the word “crazy” referenced in it, its a word that is wrongly used to describe so many with mental health problems but it is accepted in society.

I think for me the fundamental reason behind the negative stigma and discrimination of mental health is down to peoples lack of understanding. Would talking about mental health to our families, our friends our colleagues to strangers help increase awareness, or would it only serve to intensify the stigma and discrimination that exists?

It is a question i am sure a lot of you have asked yourselves before.

So What Next…..?

I think it it a brave thing knowing that you need help, but it is definitely a braver thing being able to actually ask for help. I am scared but i am also just really crap at being able to explain myself and express how i feel. It never comes out right and i find myself clamming up and shutting down. Is there anyone out there who has any advice?