Habit or Self-Harm?

The mind is a curious thing. We can know what is good for us and yet keep doing exactly the opposite.

It is as if somewhere in us there is a need to fail, a need to keep being unwell or a fear of what will happen if we were to become a lot fitter.

We all seem to have habits that hinder our recovery. For many it is smoking or drinking alcohol, while there are so many other ways in which we seem to choose to hurt ourselves.

For me, it is usually eating too much or eating things that I know will harm me. I have decided this has gone on too long so I am teaming up with Maria from a social enterprise called Mind’s Well to better understand why it is that I and millions of others can get stuck in a loop something like this:

self-harm or habit

I want to know the latest thinking on how we break-out of such loops whether these are described as self-harming or habitual*?

If you have suffered from bipolar or for that matter anything at all then you may be interested in one of Maria’s courses such as:

BPS Accredited Training on Managing Self-harming Behaviours in York on 24th September 2014

*Note: Many people manage to go for long periods without self-harming and would not describe their self-harm as at all habitual.

About Roger Smith (in the UK)
Helping you to think about bipolar disorder in different ways so that we can eliminate the disorder and eventually eliminate the need for this diagnosis.

7 Responses to Habit or Self-Harm?

  1. Margaret Taylor says:

    You are so right about this Roger. On Mondays I chastise myself. I promise myself I am going to drink less wine on the weekends. But come Friday, I’m telling myself to have a bit of fun. Let go of trying to be perfect. I eagerly await that moment, that lighthearted escape, a little magic in a glass. All the best to you Roger.


  2. becky says:

    I agree with most of this article although I wouldn’t say that all self harm is a habit. Mine was only used to survive and if a habit I would need to do it regularly although I can see how it could easily become a habit. The other bit I didn’t like was the feeling foolish. I don’t think everyone would feel this way. I didn’t. Self harm is not something we should feel ashamed of and the term feeling foolish implies that it might be.

    I think a lot of people self harm or self hurt and don’t realise that this is what it is. Smoking we know is bad for us but we do it. Drinking alcohol the same. Often we eat foods we know are bad for us too. this is all self harm/self hurt.

    My question is why do we do it to ourselves? For some it is a habit for others its not. Do we fear success? Do we have an inner saboteur that kicks in when we are doing well to put us back in our place?


    • simonbambury says:

      There are some things I know are wrong but I do them anyway because they can be right if done for the right reason. However, selfish impulse can quickly allow me to delude myself, and then I do feel foolish, so then I do vow not to do it.

      My experience of self-harm is as a cry for help. I have, in the heat of the moment, reacted angrily to someone (my mother) correcting me about being lazy/ungrateful that lead to a shouting match. Upon accepting fault/defeat (can’t win!), I scratched my forearm repeatedly with a sharp, serrated knife. Didn’t want to risk drawing too much blood, but it did sting for days and days. I -think- the purpose was to take my mum’s attention away from my defensiveness about being lazy, and probably also my own sense of guilt.

      So I think this experience is in agreement with you Becky, because I didn’t know at the time how damaging (mentally for mum/physically for me) that would be. There seems no possibility of that forming a habit.

      I’m not sure if self-harm is ever fully masochistic. I mean, we eat/drink things that we know will make us feel poorly, but we’re sure to let people know about it, right? It must be very hard to open up if self-harm is genuinely masochistic, as if just punishing oneself for something, as that would be admitting that one hadn’t the courage to try to make amends.


      • Hi Simon,
        Your response/reply to Becky is very good and think helps with the understanding of the fuzzy (grey?) area between:
        1. relatively mild (seemingly mild but maybe anything but mild in our minds at the time?) self-harm that I suspect EVERYONE has done at least once
        2. serious self-harm such as cuts and burns that leave big scars for life
        It is the sort of discussion that can help to normalize symptoms of emotional distress and therefore may help reduce stigma just a little.


  3. becky says:

    Another thought: Self harm is addictive and this may fuel it into becoming a habit. The endorphins and adrenalin from cutting, burning or eating foods I know will give me stomach pain are powerful drivers. They help release anguish and distract from inner pains. Self harm has in the past kept me alive and helped me to get through difficult times and without it I don’t think I would have coped.

    Many do not like to talk about self harm as they fear it and do not understand it. Yet we as human beings have been doing it since the beginning of time. We have done it as rituals, as coping mechanisms and it has been used as a form of treatment.


  4. I posted something similar. Its an interesting topic!


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