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Self-harm is when someone deliberately and intentionally inflicts damage or harm to their own body. This is more common amongst younger people and it is a way of expressing their emotional distress. This may occur because of a specific problem or situation. And where this is the case, it may stop when a situation or problem has been resolved. In some cases, the self-harming may continue for years to help the person cope with many different emotional problems they experience. Individuals may self-harm by cutting, scratching, piercing or burning their skin. Other forms of self-harm may be drug or alcohol abuse or by poisoning themselves or they may exercise excessively.

Signs that a person is self-harming would include bruises, cuts or burns in their arms or wrist, chest or thighs. They may keep themselves fully covered to hide the signs of the self-harm from their colleagues, family and friends. They will show signs of depression, and low self-esteem. They may put themselves down and blame themselves for any problems and withdraw from interactions with others. It is estimated that around 10% of young people self-harm at some time, but it is not limited to this demographic.

Taking into account that many people who self-harm may not admit it or seek help, 10% is likely to be far less than the real figure. In most cases people who self-harm, do it because they are overwhelmed by emotional issues, which could include difficulties at work or school, having difficult and challenging relationships with friends or family or coming to terms around issues of their sexuality. Some people may self-harm as a result of traumatic experiences, such as the death of a close member of the family or friend or it could be due to physical or sexual abuse. Self-harm in some instances is due to psychological causes, maybe thinking that the voices are telling them to self-harm, which may be a borderline personality disorder. These issues can lead to a build up of intense feelings of self-hatred, anger and guilt. And if the person does not know who to turn to for help, they may self-harm as a way to release these feelings. Self-harm is linked to anxiety and depression. And in some cases, people who self-harm are at high risk of suicide, and it is considered that self-harming may actually help them to reduce or cope with emotional distress, so they do not feel suicidal.