Self-harm is a broad term to describe behaviour when someone deliberately hurts themselves as a way of dealing with their emotions, it is not self-inflicted harm as part a cultural or religious ritual or for pleasure.
Self-harm can be inflicted in many ways, including:
- Cutting or scratching themselves
- Burning or scalding themselves
- Bruising caused by hitting or punching themselves, or throwing themselves against solid objects – such as a wall.
- Banging their head against something hard
- Inserting objects in to the body – such as needles, staples etc.
- Hair pulling (also known as trichotillomania)
- Repeatedly picking at the skin until it bleeds
- Self-poisoning by swallowing harmful chemicals or inanimate objects such as cutlery and batteries
- Taking overdoses of tablets or medication
- Breaking bones
- Interfering with wounds
- Eating disorders
This is by no means an exhaustive list and some would include risk taking lifestyles such as unprotected sex and illicit drug use as forms of self-harm
It can feel to others who are not involved in the harming behaviour that these things are done calmly and deliberately – almost cynically. However people who self-harm are usually in a state of high emotion, distress and unbearable inner turmoil. Some people plan it in advance, for others, it happens on the spur of the moment. Some people self-harm only once or twice whilst other people will do it regularly – it can be hard to stop.