Self-harm can also be called 'self-injury' or 'deliberate self-harm'.
People harm themselves in many ways, including cutting or burning, pulling out hair, hitting their bodies against something, drinking heavily or taking excessive amounts of drugs which can lead to an overdose.
There are many reasons why people self harm and the meaning for each person is unique but it is very often a way of dealing with very difficult thoughts and feelings and is often kept secret. It can be described as a coping strategy towards any emotional pressure or upset they may be experiencing or have experienced in the past. It is, generally, not a sign of suicidal tendencies.
Helen, who self harms, explained her actions when self-harming as "making my emotional pain into physical pain and it was easier to handle".
People of all ages, gender, religion and culture self harm, so please do not feel that you are alone. Speaking to someone you trust will help you to take the first steps in understanding why you self harm, and about the support that is available to help you to find other ways of dealing with your difficult feelings.
Other actions which may be classified as self-harm include having unsafe sex with someone known to have HIV or AIDS, or someone using severe techniques to avoid eating because they have an eating disorder.
If at any point you feel you need to talk to someone, please use our need to talk pages. Befrienders are not self-harm experts, but they are there to listen to your problems, whatever they are, in a caring, non-judgemental way.
The following are selected resources on the internet that provide information about self-harm. If you need help or support, please click on the link marked "I need help".
Self-Injury Support (USA Site)
Self-Injury Support (UK site)