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:

  • cutting
  • burning
  • pinching
  • biting
  • scratching yourself, and
  • pulling your hair out

Self-harm can also be through:

  • overdosing
  • 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’.

  • bullying
  • changes at home
  • stress at school
  • problems with friends
  • feeling lonely
  • bereavement
  • 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