I have a history of self-harm. When I self-harm I have my reasons. I have been clean (not self harming) for a few weeks. Here is my problem, whenever I see people with scratches say from a cat or a cut or injury, I have the need to copy that injury. Why is this?

It is not uncommon for people to manage their distress through self harm. Over one in 10 people will self harm during their lifetime. Self harm can be a confusing and frustrating behaviour for those who use it and for family and friends. There is a physiological reason people use self-harm to manage distressing or painful emotions. When you self harm your body produces endogenous opioids. Endogenous opioids have a similar affect to opioid medications. Emotional pain and real pain occur in similar parts of the brain so the endogenous opioids most probably act to decrease emotional pain. However, because of this self-harm can become an addictive behaviour. When you are seeing someone else with cuts it may be triggering the memory of the good feeling you got from self harm. This is like someone with an alcohol abuse disorder walking past a bar or a gambler walking past a gaming room.

I can’t stop thinking about a movie I watched. It’s left me feeling kind of empty, sad, confused, and lost. It’s not the first time that this has happened to me as it has also happened with TV shows and books. I feel silly because I don’t understand why I let myself be moved and influenced by such small things. It left me in a state where I can’t imagine a scenario in life where I’ll ever be content. I want to know why I suddenly feel this way.

Television, social media, and books can be a great way to relax for a few hours. However, they can also provide a fictional reality which when compared to our lives can make us feel less content. Our brains look for comparisons between our life and others. When compared to the lives of movie stars our own lives come up short. If this is happening, we need to switch off and become more present and mindful of the small events which occur every day that make us happy. If you regularly feel empty or unhappy after watching movies seeing a psychologist could help you develop strategies to increase your appreciation of your own life and decrease your need to compare your own life to others.