Self-harm is when you choose to cause pain on yourself in some way. Problems can build up to a point where you feel that you are struggling to cope. Young people often self-harming feels like a release and begin to use it as a coping mechanism to deal with their worries.
What does it look like?
Self-harm can be through:
- scratching yourself, and
- pulling your hair out
Self-harm can also be through:
- making yourself sick or ill
- abusing alcohol or drugs
When does it happen?
You may self-harm because you feel anxious, depressed or stressed and feel you can’t turn to friends/family for support or help. There are lots of other reasons young people self-harm, these are sometimes called ‘triggers’.
- changes at home
- stress at school
- problems with friends
- feeling lonely
- struggles with food
- confidence issues
- abuse (verbal, physical or sexual)
What can I do?
When you feel anxious or upset, do something you enjoy or try to think about other things can be a way to help you stop hurting yourself. If you can hang on in there, and resist the urge to self-harm for just 30 seconds to begin with, you can start to break the habit.
You could try:
- Phoning a friend
- Listening to music, drawing or reading
- Writing down your feelings in a diary
- Breathing slowly, in through the nose and out through the mouth
- Going for a walk or a run, dancing, exercising or playing sport
- Focusing on objects around you and thinking about what they look, sound, smell, taste and feel like.
If you still want to hurt yourself:
- Put your hands into a bowl of ice cubes for a short time or rub ice on the part of your body you feel like injuring
- Use a red pen or lipstick to mark your body instead of cutting
- Find a safe punching bag like some pillows
- Put a rubber band around your wrist and try flicking it
- Have a cold shower
- Stick plasters on the parts of your body you want to injure
Non-urgent advice: Where to get help
Speaking to a trusted person about how you are feeling; this could be family, friend, doctor, school nurse, teacher or counsellor. They will be able to support you with speaking to a specialist about self- harming.
CAMHS are here to support you, get in touch via our Get Support page
You can also visit Young Minds for more information on self-harm.
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Page last reviewed: 20 December, 2023