Self Harming


Harming and inflicting injury on your self deliberately can take many forms such as cutting, burning, scratching, stabbing and bruising and may take place sporadically or regularly. Such actions are rarely suicide attempts or merely attention-seeking behaviour but, rather, outward expressions of serious emotional problems. Resorting to self-harming is often a way of coping with difficulties and may serve to:

  • Legitimise feelings of pain
  • Gain a sense of control
  • Distract and bring a sense of relief
  • Manage unacceptable feelings
  • Punish oneself
  • Express shame and self hatred
  • Overcome numbness and restore a capacity to feel
  • Externalise internal pain
  • Let others know something is not right

Often self-harming comes about through an inner turmoil (perhaps feeling powerless, trapped or without choice) or from experiences which are difficult to handle in the past or present. It is common for people who self harm to feel isolated and lacking in support and unable to express their distress in a healthy way.

Moving out of self harming

Firstly, it is important to care for injuries appropriately and seek first aid or medical help if required.

It is useful to understand the need to self-harm by talking it through with someone who can help to explore the emotional distress attached to the behaviours. Research shows that professional support can be helpful. It may be important to consider alternative coping strategies that are more constructive. It can be useful to log self-harming situations and to monitor what prompts the thoughts and emotions.

Getting Support