Eating disorders and self harm


March 5, 2012

As part of our comorbidity series, our last topic to explore is self harm. To find out what comorbidity is, please read our earlier blog post.

Unfortunately, like with other associated disorders, self harm is not uncommon in people who are experiencing an eating disorder. Self harm can come in many different forms, and is usually a desperate cry for help from the sufferer. Forms of self harm can include:

  • Cutting
  • Burning
  • Overdosing
  • Tying ligatures (eg cords, wire ) around arms, legs or neck to restrict blood flow
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Promiscuity
  • Swallowing objects, including sharp objects like glass

As well as a cry for help, self harm can also be an attempt by the sufferer to replace psychological suffering with physical pain. It can act as a release for many suffering from eating disorders.

Eating disorders, self harm and bullying

A recent study at one of our treatment centres Rhodes Farm has shown that  40% of our patients under the age of 12 years old cited bullying as one of the causes of the development of their disorder.  Unfortunately many victims of bullying will also develop self harm as a way of coping with being the target of such aggressiveness and negativity. One of the effects of bullying is creating feelings of worthlessness and low self esteem in the victim. This can then lead to self harm and can also trigger an eating disorder.

Treatment for eating disorders and self harm

As always, there is a way out of this suffering. With the right specialist help and support, we believe everyone can recover from an eating disorder and self harming behaviour. And we really do mean everyone- including people who have suffered from eating disorders and self harm for many years.

The first step, which can be the most difficult, is to ask for help. There are a number of help and advice lines that people can contact.  You will be put in touch with someone who has been trained in listening, talking through problems and giving further information.  Some helplines are:

At our treatment centres, Althea Park House and Ashleigh House, we help clients who have suffered from eating disorders over a number of years and that have become complex or severe. Our clients may also have histories of self harm. We use particular techniques to help our clients respond to anxiety and feelings of wanting to self harm by using a method called “emotional modulation techniques.” Using an onsite sensory room, clients can experience different levels of emotion in a safe environment.

When someone has experienced self-destructive behaviours in the past in order to deal with difficult emotions, the work carried out within the sensory room allows them to identify triggers of high levels of worrying thoughts and feelings without resorting to self-harm.

Find out more about our eating disorder treatment plans at Althea Park House and Ashleigh House, or alternatively call us on 01453 767093 or email us on

We want you to live your life, not the disorder