Self-poisoning… some thoughts

Self-poisoning… some thoughts

There’s been a report in the media today about self-poisoning, and as I’ve pottered about on day 1 of half term with my children, it’s given me a lot to think about; why exactly are some of us driven to ingest something we know is harmful?

I’ve always been a real stickler for use-by dates. As I’ve grown older and watched my husband happily eat eggs a week past their best and throw caution to the wind with a bit of dodgy bacon, I’ve mellowed a bit. I recently even took a gamble on some iffy prawns, figuring I was either in for a lovely lunch or starting an unscheduled diet, but I know there are some out there that’d be horrified I’d even considered it. And yet scores of teenage girls (and probably many others of all ages) are swallowing things likely to cause much more damage than the upset stomach from a slightly funky chicken.

(For the record, we don’t just eat stale food…)

Self-poisoning isn’t new; people have been taking overdoses and drinking household cleaners and chemicals for years, but maybe it’s being understood a bit better at last; it’s also refreshing to see the article acknowledge how addictive it can be. Self-poisoning is a form of self-harm – and definitely not necessarily an attempt to end life. In the same way a cut may harm the outside of someone’s body, an overdose does exactly the same on the inside, except the consequences and long term risks to health are potentially more catastrophic.

We can hypothesise all day and night about why more young people – particularly girls – are self-poisoning. Maybe, as the Royal College of Psychiatry are suggesting, hospitals are recording incidents more accurately, and some of these episodes may have previously been logged differently. I hope that’s the case, because my nagging alternative scares me.

A while back I was chatting to a group of older teenagers who were at various stages of recovery from self-harm. Without exception, they all conceded that had they understood the permanence of scarring, they absolutely would never have started cutting, but would’ve instead found a way to self-harm that didn’t leave visible marks. This conversation sprang into my thoughts earlier, and I’ve been left wondering if self-poisoning is that alternative. In a culture being saturated with the messages about the importance of physical perfection, is there a tiny possibility that self-poisoning is more aesthetically acceptable for some? Are we that obsessed with appearances that it’s influencing how and where people choose to self-harm?

I want to be wrong.

Self-Poisoning can kill – if you or anyone who know has either overdosed or ingested something not designed to be consumed then please seek help as soon as possible. You may feel fine, you may have no symptoms that anything’s wrong now… but how tragic would it be for it to come back and haunt you in days, weeks, months or even years from now when your life is in a better place but the damage catches up with you? It’s never worth the risk, but tragically, I don’t think that message is being heard.

You can read the original article on the BBC website here –

@RachelWelch | @FreedomFromHarm

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  1. PookyH

    One reason I have heard many times is that cutting is so commonplace that it gets readily dismissed but that’s not always the case with an overdose which ‘shows you’re serious so you’re more likely to get some help’

    • freedomfromharm

      I’ve only worked out today how to reply – doh! Yes, agree – I filtered what I said to keep the word count down! It’s a scary pattern of thinking either way.

  2. apparentlyfunctioning

    Great piece. I’ve been self poisoning for years and a lot of it stemmed from the need to keep it from everyone. It’s an invisible form of self harm.

    • freedomfromharm

      Thank you, that’s kind of you to say – I’m glad it resonated. Take care, Rachel


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