Self-harm is when somebody hurts or injures themselves on purpose. It might happen only once, or it could happen regularly over a longer period of time.
People self-harm in many different ways, including cutting or burning themselves, hitting themselves, or swallowing harmful substances. Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, are also examples of self-harm.

There are many reasons why you might feel driven to self-harm. You might see it as a way of dealing with painful or difficult feelings, such as anger, loneliness or sadness. You might start self-harming when something upsetting happens in your life – such as being bullied , or losing a close relative. Or, there may be times when you just find life too difficult to cope with. 

If you harm yourself, you may want to hide what you have done. You might feel ashamed, or worried about how people will react. You may find it difficult to talk about what drove you to hurt yourself in the first place.


  • Self-harm is usually a sign of other problems, so it might help to think about talking to someone about this
  • There is a risk of going too far, and hurting yourself more than you intended
  • Some types of self-harm, such as cutting and burning, can cause permanent scars
  • Cuts and burns can become infected, and may need treatment
  • Self-harming can lead you to feel very isolated
  • If you self-harm when you are young, you are more likely to miss school or stop socialising with your friends
  • Self-harm may make you more likely to have unprotected sex
  • If you self-harm when you are young, you’re more likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol

Keeping yourself safe

  • If you feel like hurting yourself, tell someone straight away
  • Try to find other ways of dealing with your feelings. You might try doing some exercise, or something creative such as writing or drawing
  • If you self-harm, try talking to someone about it. This could be an adult you trust, such as a teacher or parent. Or, you could talk to your GP. They can refer you to someone who’s specially trained to help people in your situation. This person will understand what you’re going through, and won’t judge you for it


Where to get help

Speak to your GP, school nurse, or any other health professional that knows you

For further information