What is Self-Harm

Self-harm refers to anything that someone does to intentionally hurt themselves, or something that they know is harmful but do anyway. People perform self-harm to make them feel better in the moment, but is harmful overall. Self-harm is done for many reasons: to punish themselves for something they’re ashamed of, to gain a sense of control, or just to feel something. Often, the goal of self-harm isn’t the harm itself but to distract from or release underlying emotional pain.

The types of self-harm

Physical Self-Harm

Physical self-harm is what most people think of when talking about self-harm. It’s sometimes called self-injury or self-mutilation and includes behaviours like cutting, burning, and skin picking. These behaviours often result in physical pain, and some people are looking for that sensation they may feel numb or want to punish themselves.

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Alcohol & Drug Misuse

If the negative effects of your substance use are severe or outweigh any potential benefits and you keep using anyway, this could be a form of self-harm. Frequent or heavy substance use is often a sign of trying to numb painful or difficult feelings like self-injury, it can temporarily relieve emotional distress. Alcohol and drug use can quickly become addictive and turn into a mental health concern in itself.

Self-Destructive Behaviour

In reality, any unhealthy or destructive behaviour can be emotional self-harm. Patterns like this can be especially hard to identify because you may not even realize you’re doing it. It includes things like procrastinating, pushing away loved ones, or changing yourself to please others. Many of these behaviours are done out of fear, self-punishment, or to gain control over a situation.


Continuously ignoring your personal needs is harmful. Things like poor diet, an overly messy or unsanitary living space, and poor hygiene are all signs of self-neglect. Self-neglect isn’t usually intentional; it is usually the result of low energy, low motivation, or apathy.


Self-harm of any kind is often a sign of an underlying mental health condition. People struggling with their mental health often experience very intense negative emotions, and it can be hard to find healthy ways to cope. Any mental health condition can involve self-harm, but some conditions are especially linked with self-harm. These can include borderline personality disorder (BPD), eating disorders, depression, and addiction.

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If you think you may be experiencing one of these, you can contact our therapists about your issues today:


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