Self-harm is when somebody intentionally damages or injures their body. It is a way of expressing deep emotional feelings such as low self-esteem, or a way of coping with traumatic events, such as the death of a loved one.
Self-harm is an expression of personal distress, rather than an illness, although it can be linked to other mental health conditions such as depression.
An indicator of the deliberate infliction of harm to one's self may include:
- cutting or slashing the skin
- burning the skin
- punching, biting or using blunt force on the body
- hanging, strangulation, suffocation or self-poisoning
- misusing alcohol or drugs
- refusing food or water or eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, binge eating or bulimia.
People often try to keep self-harm a secret and may cover up their skin and avoid discussing the problem. The signs may include unexplained injuries and signs of depression or low self-esteem.
Someone who is self-harming can seriously hurt themselves, so it is important that they speak to a doctor about the underlying issue and about any treatment or therapy that might help them.
Source: NHS Choices, UK (Self-harm)
Last reviewed: August 2015