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Self-Harming And Body Dysmorphia


I have a friend, who I will call Jenny. This isn’t her real name but I could never run the risk of drawing attention to her for fear of repercussions.

Jenny is beautiful. Fair skinned, petite, beautiful blue eyes – to the outside world she has it all. She works in the medical profession as a nurse, and spent years working her way through university with no financial help. She hopes to go on and study medicine or forensic science. She has a lovely way with animals and a real aptitude for training horses. She has a beautiful singing voice – so very talented.

Jenny is in her thirties and has never had a boyfriend. She is a virgin and says she’ll stay that way. Why? Because she hates herself and cannot believe that anyone could love her. This outwardly, and inwardly, beautiful woman loathes herself with a passion and hurts herself on a regular basis by slashing her arms. She spends her time off in bed cocooned under a duvet and recently tried to kill herself with an overdose. She overeats and then purges. Jenny is out of control but can’t stop herself.

Addiction Or Compulsion?

Jenny often experiences an uncontrollable urge to cut herself, because in doing so she gets a huge sense of release. It is her way of dealing with stress. She says that by mutilating herself she is taking control of her body.  Compulsions are an important part of the addictive process as well as the major component in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Jenny is now addicted to hurting herself. The original act, which relieved stress and emotions, has now become a pleasure, leaving Jenny on a ‘high’ for a while then numbness sinks in. And after the numbness, the urge grows again.

Attention Seeking?

Some people believe that this sort of behaviour is attention seeking or a cry for help. Well, I’ve known Jenny for 8 years now and only discovered what was going on in her life 2 months ago. She hides it so well. Yes, she feels shame at times, but that feeling is overshadowed by how she feels after a cutting ‘episode’. I asked her if she could stop and she said no. Not even for me, a good friend.

Both her stepfather and her mother abused Jenny when she was little. She was called worthless, useless, and ugly. The words have scarred deeper than the cuts on her arms and legs. I know she’s lovely but she won’t believe me. Little words from the past have destroyed her.

The Future

I hope one day that Jenny will get help and learn to love herself a little.  I feel helpless and sad at the waste of a beautiful life. Jenny is worth so much. Yes, I’m being selfish and I want Jenny around for me as much as herself. But is that such a bad thing? To have someone who cares?

If you are reading this and identify with this story, then please get some help now. Like Jenny, you have at least one person who cares.

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