Can Drinking Be Classed As Self Harm?

Self harming does not necessarily need to be physically painful, it can in fact occur without the individual knowing what they are doing to themselves. Ordinary behaviour such as over eating, smoking or working long hours can all help numb the pain an individual is going through. This can however be categorised as self destructive behaviour, one of the most fatal being drinking excessively. Although alcohol consumption is an everyday activity for some it is important to raise self harm awareness in relation to alcohol consumption.

According to the National Suicide Research Foundation there is a direct link between self harming and excessive drinking. Reinforced by professor Arensman, director of research, self harm is a “direct effect of the depressive effect of heavy drinking”. It is reported that 38% of 12,010 self harm cases were related to alcohol consumption. They even suggest that by ending heavy drinking amongst adolescents and young people they could reduce self harm by 17% in 2-3 years. It is also interesting to point out that this behaviour peaks during holiday season where people are admitted to the emergency department from self harming after consuming alcohol, requiring increased help for self harm. Dates like New Year’s Day and bank holidays show self harming and alcohol consumption is “very strongly associated with public holidays”.


It is no surprise that harmful consumptions of alcohol can count as self harm and not the traditional cutting that many would assume, since self harm is a means of relieving pain and negative emotions. As there are healthy ways to reduce stress such as exercising and relaxation there are unhealthy ways such as drinking or smoking. People who suffer from Bipolar or mood disorders for instance are more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs than those without such disorders. In order to provide self harm help it is therefore vital to inform individuals of safer methods of reducing stress and managing emotional discomfort.

Additionally, alcohol can lead to impulsive actions such as self harm or suicidal behaviour by removing inhibitions and making an individual behave in ways they would not normally behave. According to NHS Scotland for example more than half of hospital attendees who self injured claimed to drink before or during the act. 27% of men and 19% of women gave alcohol as the reason behind their self harming.

Helping those who self harm seems a daunting task due to the serious nature of self harm according to those not fully informed, but even the most common actions can be detrimental to one’s health. Over consumption of cigarettes, food, work, reckless behaviour and ultimately alcohol can provide temporary escape from negative feelings but could soon become a dangerous addiction and ultimately lead to physical harm to the body and mind. Adding to this, by self harming under the influence of alcohol an individual is less likely to be aware of their actions and less likely to stop. For many individuals it is easy to choose fast relief for pain, which is why we must push for healthier and safer means to reduce negative feelings and ultimately self harm.

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