Addiction and self-harm

Self-harm is far too often silenced or seen as a taboo subject. This can make it difficult for those suffering from self-harm to reach out for help, leading to various struggles, including addiction.

Dealing with self-harm or addiction alone can be a daily fight, but when the two conditions co-exist, it can be a gruelling challenge. Fortunately, help is available, and lasting changes can be made with the right treatment approach.


Self-harm and addiction

What is self-harm?

Self-harm is when you physically hurt yourself to cope with complicated feelings, painful memories, or overwhelming situations. When you self-harm, you experience pain which can feel like a release as your emotional pain becomes physical instead.

Most people understand self-harm as cutting one’s wrists or other body parts. However, varying common types of self-harm can include:

  • Taking too many tablets
  • Burning yourself
  • Pulling your hair
  • Punching yourself

Why do people with addiction self-harm?

We have explained that many different types of self-harm exist, but many experts classify addiction as self-harm. This means we have two questions to answer:

  • Why do people abuse substances as a form of self-harm?
  • Why do people with substance addictions self-harm in other ways?

Firstly, there is often more than one reason people self-harm using substances. They may have witnessed other people doing the same, making it normal to turn to self-harm; they can become dependent on the high they get from drugs or alcohol to self-medicate for anxiety.

Secondly, when people with addiction self-harm in other ways, it is often because they have hit rock bottom with their addiction. They are used to turning to painful coping mechanisms to deal with their struggles, so harming themselves to numb the pain addiction is a logical step.

Some people know they have damaged their bodies significantly by abusing drugs, so they no longer care about their health and self-harm to express self-hatred. Others experience such intense physical symptoms of addiction that the only way to escape this pain is to create pain in another part of their body.

What are the consequences of self-harm and addiction?

With addiction alone, your body is pumped with toxins that put you at a higher risk of stroke, cardiac problems, and gastrointestinal issues. When self-harm is added to this, there is an increased risk that you will end up seriously unwell. If someone cuts their skin to cope with their addiction, they may bleed excessively, experience tissue damage and have permanent scarring.

Regarding emotional impact, consistently harming yourself will lead to low self-esteem and further negative thoughts. When you hurt yourself, your mind can wander to dark places where you believe you deserve to be mistreated and that it is okay to blame yourself when going through challenging times.

The more you self-harm to cope with your issues, the harder it will be to unlearn this behaviour later. Self-harming can become a coping mechanism that people return to simply because they don’t know how or haven’t tried other ways of dealing with their emotional pain.


Self-harm and addiction - depressed woman


How can rehab treatment prevent self-harm?

When you go to rehab for addiction treatment, you will learn many healthy coping mechanisms that can replace self-harm and put you on the path to emotional and physical recovery.

Some examples of coping mechanisms taught at residential rehab are:

  • Positive thinking
  • Journaling
  • Exercise
  • Therapy
  • Meditation
  • Counselling
  • Mindfulness
  • Distraction

No single treatment can altogether remove all traces of your emotional pain as, over time, it becomes a part of you and your experiences. This means to grow from it; you must learn how to manage it. Fortunately, after spending productive time in a rehab programme, you will have a better idea of dealing with negative feelings as and when they come up.

How can Oasis Bradford help me?

While we do not treat dual diagnosis conditions, if your self-harming is managed then Oasis Bradford’s addiction rehab programme can help you overcome addiction while supporting and respecting your history with self-harm. We offer medically assisted detox to help you overcome the physical aspect of addiction in unison with a range of therapeutic models, including a family recovery programme, a 12-step programme and trauma therapy to support long-term recovery.

If you struggle with self-harm and addiction, you will find that opening up to our qualified therapists and working alongside your peers in rehab towards the same addiction recovery goals are much more beneficial than keeping your problems to yourself.

While reaching out for support can be daunting, we will make you feel as comfortable as possible by introducing you to the rehab staff and helping you settle in. Once the benefits of therapy start to manifest, you may wish you had admitted yourself to rehab sooner as your new, more positive life awaits.

How to get started

Our admissions process for addiction treatment couldn’t be easier. If you want to know more, you simply need to contact us. Once we have your details, we will arrange an assessment, which will involve discussing your addiction and the direction of your treatment.

Begin your journey to recovery from addiction and self-harm. We have helped hundreds of people start new lives, and are here to help you too.