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Self-harm refers to ways in which people hurt themselves to seek relief from emotional pain, anger or frustration. In therapy, it is possible to talk openly about the experience of self-harm in a non-judgemental environment.
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How do I know if I have ADHD? Does my child have ADHD?

Many people with ADHD aren't aware they have it. They will be aware however that everyday tasks seem more difficult for them than for others. Typical symptoms are finding it hard to focus, missing deadlines and trouble controlling impulses, ranging from impatience to mood swings and outbursts of anger. Other symptoms include:

  • Trouble multitasking.
  • Excessive activity or restlessness.
  • Poor planning.
  • Hot temper.
  • Trouble coping with stress.

What ADHD is not

The above list may be familiar to most people at different times in their lives. If these symptoms occur only occasionally, they probably don't have ADHD. A doctor usually diagnoses when someone’s symptoms cause problems that stop a person working, finding stable housing, or living normally and safely.

Diagnosis of ADHD in adults is often trickier because the same symptoms also occur in mental health conditions, such as anxiety or mood disorders. Many adults with ADHD also have at least one other mental health condition (depression and anxiety are the most common).

At what age do ADHD symptoms appear?

Symptoms usually start before the age of 12 and continue into adulthood.

How long does ADHD last?

ADHD is a lifelong condition, though it often becomes less marked in adulthood. But it can be effectively managed. The first step is to see a doctor and start seeking a diagnosis.

How many people have ADHD?

In the UK, the incidence of ADHD in school-aged children is thought to be between 3 and 5%. In adults it is between 3 and 4%.

What causes ADHD?

We still don’t know for sure. An enormous amount of research is focused on finding the causes of ADHD. Factors that may be involved include:

  • Genetics.
  • Environment.
  • Problems during development.

What are the risk factors for ADHD?

The risk of a person developing ADHD may increase if:

  • Family members suffer from ADHD.
  • During pregnancy the mother smokes, drinks, or uses drugs.
  • A child is premature.

What are the impacts of delayed diagnosis of ADHD?

ADHD has been linked to:

  • Poor school or work performance.
  • Unemployment.
  • Financial problems.
  • Trouble with the police.
  • Alcohol or drug misuse.
  • Unstable relationships.
  • Poor self-esteem.

How is ADHD diagnosed?

Making the diagnosis normally includes:

  • Asking questions about symptoms and family medical history.
  • ADHD tests to measure symptoms.

What are the treatments for ADHD?

ADHD is normally treated through a two-pronged approach:

  • Medication.
  • Therapy.

ADHD medication

Doctors might prescribe stimulants for ADHD – which might seem counterintuitive, but has a strong evidence basis for regulating brain activity.

Some ADHD patients might also benefit from antidepressants or other medication, but in every case a doctor is best placed to advise on what to take.

Therapy for ADHD

Psychotherapy is indicated for people with ADHD but behavioural therapies can also help manage traits that make people with ADHD disorganised, and teach useful skills as well.

Help and information about ADHD

ADHD (NHS Choices)

NHS Choices provides information about the signs, symptoms and treatment for depression.

ADHD Foundation

For people with an ADHD diagnoses, this charity provides resources and advocacy.

Young Minds

Aimed at young people, this profile of ADHD explains what it is, how to seek treatment and mental health concerns for people with ADHD in a clear and straightforward way.

Click here to see practitioners who specialise in


What is self-harm?

Normally, self-harm is a term used to describe the act of inflicting pain or injury on oneself and is associated with cutting, burning or banging one’s head against walls.

However, it sometimes has a broader meaning and can be used to describe alcohol or drug abuse as well as attempted suicide.

At what age do people start self-harming?

Self-harming normally begins during teenage years but can start in childhood or adulthood.  

How common is self-harm?

About 1 in 10 young people have gone to see their GP or presented to hospital after self-harming. It is estimated that many more young people self-harm in private and never contact the NHS for help about it.

In a large study of adults in hospital who had self-harmed, 80% had hurt themselves by taking an overdose and around 15% had self-harmed by cutting.

Why do people self-harm?

People who self-harm are often trying to manage extreme distress or very difficult circumstances. The act of causing pain can give a sense of control and momentarily replace these feelings of distress with a different sensation.

Self-harm can also be used as a form of self-punishment.

Reasons for self-harm include:

  • Feeling depressed
  • Experiencing physical or sexual abuse
  • Facing relationship problems with partners, friends, and family
  • Being unemployed, or having difficulties at work

How can I stop self-harming, or help someone who self-harms?

The first step is to talk to someone about it. It doesn’t matter whether that person is a friend, a teacher or a GP. Sharing the load helps.

Other ways of dealing with the immediate need to self-harm include:

  • Leaving an environment that makes a person feel like hurting themselves
  • Distracting away from the feeling by going out for a walk or listening to music
  • Using techniques such as squeezing ice cubes, flicking a hairband that they place around their wrist or drawing on their skin

The next step is to seek help from a professional therapist. Two well-known therapy approaches that help people that self-harm are CBT and counselling.

Cognitive behavioural therapy for people who self-harm

This structured type of counselling teaches specific skills to manage behaviour and change negative thinking patterns into positive ones.

Psychodynamic counselling for people who self-harm

This approach helps make sense of long-standing conflicts, allowing us to become more self-aware.

Other helpful resources about self-harm

Self Harm UK

Part of the charity YouthScape, Self Harm UK offers courses and resources for young people who are struggling with self-harm.

Self Injury Support

A UK charity dedicated to supporting recovery for people who self-harm.


For people in distress or despair, especially for people experiencing the urge to hurt themselves, Samaritans is open 24 hours a day by phone (116 123) and email (