Self-harm refers to when we hurt ourselves in response to or in order to deal with very difficult feelings. Self harm manifests in different ways, often deliberate and hidden, one engages in cutting, scratching, biting and hair pulling.

If you self-harm it may be linked to other problems you are experiencing. Self-harm can be a sign of other disorders such as depression or anxiety.

“If you feel the need to harm yourself, try to give yourself a goal of getting through the next ten minutes without doing so. Should I tell someone? Yes! This is the first step - telling someone about your self-harm shows strength and courage; it can often be a huge relief to be able to let go of such a secret, or at least share it.”

There are often reasons behind self-harm behaviours.

These can include:

Whilst this guide does not endorse harming yourself, we understand you may use self-harm as a coping mechanism. It is important to understand why someone is self-harming, in order to effectively respond to it.  

What does self- harm look and feel like?

“Anxiety and panic attacks took over my life. I sank into a depression. I felt ashamed of being different. That’s when I first had the overwhelming urge to physically hurt myself. Cutting felt so satisfying – an addictive form of self-punishment – and it was the only outlet to release my emotions.”
- saigowrikuruvada

“You completely lose your mind and your logic. You need to see a visual of the pain you feel inside, to feel something that is real to the outside world. At this stage, your head feels about ready to implode from pressure.”
- Ebonie Smith

People experience self-harm in different ways - it is important to understand that people self-harm for different reasons and within different situations, and that this also affects how people experience it. In the same way, people self-harm through different methods.

These may include:

Some of the examples listed above* are body focused repetitive behaviours (BFRBs), which refers to a group of complex disorders that cause you to repeatedly damage yourself either deliberately or unconsciously, whether the harming is intentional or otherwise. There’s more information about this on this website.

It is also worth bearing in mind that whilst some of these actions cause relief, BFRBs do not fit conventional models of self-harm because they can increase anxiety and stress.

Self-harming may also lead to other feelings and actions too.

These include:

Digesting this much info is tough. Feel free to give yourself permission to ask for support! You find more info about how to deal with helping yourself and getting help in the second part of the guide!

Getting better and seeking help

Disclaimer: This guide has not been put together by mental health professionals. It is not intended to be medical advice. It has been crowdsourced by survivors and volunteers of Chayn. Care has been taken in reflecting the experiences and knowledge of people around the world, including therapists but information in this guide should be taken instead of certified medical advice. Please seek professional support.

Getting better & moving on: A guide for mental healing after abuse and trauma by CHAYN is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.