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Self-Harm: things you can do to help yourself


Self-harm is when you hurt yourself on purpose.  For people who self-harm regularly, it’s a way of trying to deal with emotions, thoughts or life situations that feel too much.  Sometimes people describe not liking themselves, and self-harming to punish themselves for the things that they feel are wrong with them.  People self-harm in lots of different ways.  Some ways that people hurt themselves are: 

  • Scratching or biting yourself

  • cutting yourself using a sharp object

  • hitting or burning yourself 

  • hitting walls 

  • taking overdoses of tablets or medication, when you are not trying to die

  • deliberately getting into situations where you could get hurt, like fights


Often self-harm makes you feel better for a short time, but afterwards you also might feel guilty, ashamed, or worried that someone will find out about your self-harming.  When difficult feelings start to build up again, you might feel like you need to hurt yourself again, and it can be hard to break out of this cycle.  If you have been self-harming for a while, it might feel like it is your only way to cope, which can be scary.  But there are things you can do to stop self-harming and get better.  And with support, you can learn other ways of coping when things feel too much. 

 There is myth that people self-harm for attention; you might have heard people talk about self-harming as “attention-seeking”.  In reality, most people who self-harm hurt themselves when they are alone, and try to hide their injuries and scars.  They need attention and support, and might wish that someone would see how much pain they’re in, but often they find it very difficult to let other people know how they’re feeling.   


Things you can do to help yourself

There are lots of things you can do in the moment to help you if are trying not to self-harm.  When you feel the urge to self-harm building up, you could try to: 

  • go for a walk or do some gentle exercise 

  • distract yourself by focusing on your breathing 

  • message a friend and let them know you need them to help you take your mind off things 

  • play music and sing or dance along 

  • if the pain is important, try holding an ice cube until it melts

  • write down your thoughts 

  • hit a cushion or your mattress 

  • tear up a magazine or newspaper 

  • make a self-soothe box 

  • go to a public place like a park or a cafe 


If you don’t feel ready to try and stop self-harming, it’s important to look after your injuries.  If you use a sharp object to hurt yourself, make sure you clean it regularly, and always keep a first aid kit in the house with anti-septic wipes, plasters and bandages.  If you are worried that a wound might be infected, get medical help from your GP or by calling 111.  If you need emergency treatment, call 999 or go to your local Accident and Emergency (A&E) department.   

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