I’m worried that my coping strategies are causing me harm – what can I do?

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Any coping strategy might become problematic if it comes into conflict with other parts of life, for example, by causing physical health problems, relationship difficulties or financial issues. For example, drinking alcohol might feel helpful in the moment to block out voices- but it can also become a problem in itself.

Understanding the ‘why’ behind the coping strategy can be a starting point for exploring other options. The same coping strategy, drinking alcohol, might be used by different people for different reasons: to block out powerful voices, make the person feel more in control, numb emotions, connect with different memories or feelings, or feel more confident. Identifying why the strategy is being used, and validating it, can open up a conversation or reflection on what other strategies might be used in its place. You can search our coping strategies by theme to look for similar coping strategies.

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For people who are worried about their drinking, services such as Drinkline and Alcohol Concern offer information and support, including details of local support groups throughout the UK. Drugwise produce evidence-based information on alcohol, drugs, tobacco and prescription drug dependency, as well as sources of support, and FRANK offer information and advice for young people about street drugs.

Some people use self-harm or self-injury to cope with distressing voices. Self-harm is generally understood as “intentional self-poisoning or injury, irrespective of the apparent purpose of the act” (Nice guidelines). It includes cutting, burning, ingesting harmful substances (including overdosing), skin picking, banging head or limbs, and many more.

Self-harm is sometimes used as a coping strategy, and for some people, it is helpful in the moment, as it can help with blocking intense voices, creating a feeling of safety or control, or expressing big emotions- and many more functions beyond these. Not everyone who self-harms accesses mental health support or primary care (GP or emergency services) because of their self-harm. However, some people find that their self-harm requires medical assistance, or want help to stop or reduce self-harming. Other people look for support or advice around harm reduction so they can reduce the risks involved in self-harm. GPs or mental health services can provide support with this. Specialist self-harm organisations can also provide information and help.

Self Injury Support, a service for women and girls who self-harm, have produced a range of resources on different ways of thinking about self-harm, and alternative coping strategies for dealing with difficult feelings. They also offer a range of support services for women and girls across the UK. The National Self-Harm Network operate an online forum for people of all genders to connect, share experiences and receive peer support, and SelfharmUK offer a range of support services for young people. The Samaritans also offer a confidential, 24/7 support service over telephone and email.


See also: In crisis?

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