Self-injury and Self-harming behaviour.

Drawing on my own lived experience as a child that self-injured and as a young adult that returned to this coping method, and the many people using the service via feedback from questionnaires, below is what we have come to believe as self-injury and self-harming behaviour.

This is the web version of the booklet called HOPE which stands for Honesty Opportunity Potential Encouragement Sue Ozolins 1997


Untreated depression and other mental health problems create an environment of despair that leads some people to utilising unhealthy coping methods.
When you get to the point of self-injury, solutions are out of sight and out of mind. You feel isolated and disconnected from everything and everybody.
The majority of  people who self-injure are trying to preserve their life not end it, it's a coping method to deal with painful emotional feelings.

Methods of Self-injury?

Inner tormentCutting /Burning /Scratching /Strangulation /Suffocation /Self-mutilation/ Craving / Branding/ Marking /Head banging /Breaking bones/Picking and Pulling Skin / Pulling out hair/ Eyelashes (Trichotillomania) /Eating disorders /Medication abuse /Inserting objects/Self-Poisoning / Punching /Slapping /Biting /Bruising /Blinding/

Why do people Self-harm or Self-injure?

Peer pressure. Social expectations or self-expectations.

Relationship breakdowns. Partner/family/friends.

Parents separating

Low self-esteem. Past conditioning or self-programming.

Rejection. Feeling alone, insecure.

Isolation. Enforced or self chosen.

Low income. High expectations.

Social expectations. The need to fit in.

Rewards.  At times people will provide gifts or more time to someone who has self-harmed to make them feel better and obviously some people will want this to keep happening.

Abusive relationships. Mental/sexual/physical/financial.

Hostile environment. Feelings of insecurity due to other influences surrounding one. Prisons/ hostels/schools/ many working environments. Worthlessness. Feeling without value or usefulness.

Stress/Anxiety/ Depression.

Coping mechanism to function when experiencing extreme emotions.

To deal with the Anger & thoughts about the past. 

To feel pain, as sometimes some may feel that they deserve the pain. (which of course is not fact just their choice)

When things go wrong, an individual can feel everyone they meet must like them, they can never cause a fuss, when this backfires, they turn to self-injury.

To gain Control, for grounding, to get some feeling back.

To release pain, anger, feelings and frustration. To feel real and less cut off

To release anxiety and panic/ Self-hatred – to punish myself.

To calm down. /If someone upsets them or winds them up.

Self-loathing /desperation to take the pain of that away.

A cry for help.

To overcome suicidal tendencies it brings a sense of release and transfers pain somewhere else.

Externalising pain and relieving tension. 

Common methods to cope with the above.

Alcohol abuse /Socially acceptable form of self– harm.

Drug abuse/ Socially and unsociable form of self-harm depending on your peers.

Solvent Abuse /Unsociable form of harm.

Self-injury/ Unsociable form of abuse  Feeling trapped and seeing no other way out.  

Smoking/ Socially and unsociable form of self-harm depending on your peers.

Violence/ Abuse on others/ Unsociable and very common. 


The above are all coping methods not solutions.  They all cause harm to an individual.  If we ignore this fact than maybe, that worn out term  "deliberate self harm" might be of some use?

What may be viewed as Self-harming behaviour? 

Self-harming behaviour, as I like to interpret covers a wide range of short-term coping methods for everyday life problems, which may have long-term harmful consequences.  


People self-injure for many of the same reasons that people drink or take drugs.


If an individual participates willingly in whatever causes harm to them, whether that is in the short or long term, I class this as self-harming behaviour.  


People turn to many diverse coping methods when they feel depressed and cannot find the solutions to their problems.


Alcohol abuse/Drug abuse/ Smoking, are common coping methods to cope with problematic situations. 


Self-injury is just another coping method, but just as the above, it's not the solution. It works by releasing Endorphins which make you feel calm and relaxed, but only briefly, and possibly disfigured for years after, depending on how you self-injure that is.  Also like many other coping methods you need more as your tolerance increases. 


Self-injury may be a coping method, but it is different from Illicit or legal drug abuse, the desperation and feelings on being trapped in ones situation is all encompassing and suicide is often considered, but Self-injury is a coping method to deal with that, to survive, the positive element of self-injury is the individual wants life, just not the way they are living it.  It's helpful sometimes, just like other coping methods it's abused. In 1996 when I first started saying this, people were astonished, as that was a different time with a very closed minded outlook by as many professionals as while as the general public, but that's another conversation. 


 Debt is heavily encouraged these days, and I am not sure how they get away with some of those interest rates, but it's grown from the “Don’t put it off, put it on” attitude"  


Denial or Saving face, can lead to people hurting themselves when they perform for the crowds rather than being true to themselves. 


Isolation is the most used coping method and extremely harmful, that’s why we ensure good support networking. 


Eating too much/ Not eating enough, which may result in illness or death as with alcohol/drug abuse or smoking. I am finding it alarming how much encouragement there is for anorexia, and other eating disorders on social media sites. 


Overwork which can go unnoticed by many, and rewarded by some. Sometimes it's the employers placing this pressure on it's employees, I hear of insane hours being worked by some doctors.


 Avoiding effort/Avoiding support/ Non-care of self, very common amongst people suffering from depression and experiencing low self-esteem.


Violence/Crime, it has been proven that some people may turn to self-injury in later life due to the crimes they committed in their younger years.  To hurt another is to hurt yourself. 


Driving fast/recklessly, you may drive faster than needed at times, and no one cares, but if you killed a child, how would that make you feel?


Medication Abuse again is very common, either not taking what is prescribed or taking too much and un-prescribed.    


Displaying low self-esteem, in today's society it may not be beneficial to display how vulnerable you are, it may attract those that will take advantage of you.  


Gambling may lead to loss of income and housing if not dealt with.


Negative Thinking, you are what you think.  


Multiple sexual relationships, just consider how many sexually transmitted diseases are present nowadays, within all age groups and minorities. 


Expectations of self-perfection may make a person give up on trying to help themselves, if they do not succeed first time on the new things they try. 


Rushing into relationships, people may move in with someone they met within 24 hours, which may be romantic in the short term and may end up traumatic in the long term.   Some young people cannot cope with the thought of being single.


Staying in abusive relationships can result in lost opportunities due to fears of being alone, or ending up in a worst situation than at present. 


Self-doubt can be a big hindrance as everything you try to achieve you will doubt, so you may be always setting yourself up to fail with self-prophecies.  


 Fashion victim  copying jack arse culture etc.  Many things that are safe in moderation can become dangerous in excessive amounts.   We need to know what coping methods you are using, to help you find the solutions you require.


Be mindful: If you truly want to help yourself, stay CALM:  Considerate Actions towards self and others that may Liberate self to Move forward