‘Self-harm’ is when you choose to hurt yourself physically to release the pain that you are experiencing deep within. The most common form of self-harm is cutting and burning. The other ways that people engage in self-harm are by pulling out body hairs, punching walls and drinking or eating toxic substances or sharp objects.

Why do people choose to self-harm? 

People inflict self-harm when life feels impossible to cope with. And life is hard for all of us at some point in time or another. And self-harm becomes the way that people deal with their many intense thoughts and feelings. Hurting oneself appears like the only way to let such feelings out. Or some people feel so numbed because of the emotional pain that they are experiencing that they hurt themselves just so that they feel something.

Sometimes they inflict self-harm to deal with difficult things that are happening to them right now or could have happened to them in the past. Sometimes they don’t even understand why they are hurting themselves. Feelings are complex for all of us, and it can get difficult to understand why someone would do something like this. This doesn’t mean that help isn’t available.

Some reasons why someone would have a self-harming disorder are:


  • Living with health problems- physical health issues like a long-term illness
  • Living with mental health issues like depression
  • Coping with ADHD or autism
  • Stress in teens like exams or pressure and criticism from family, friends or teachers
  • Problems with self-image/ body image
  • Substance abuse
  • Loneliness
  • Guilt, feeling like a failure or being unloved
  • Bullying
  • Domestic Abuse In Teenage Relationships

Many things happen in life that leaves us feeling overwhelmed, angry or hurt.  When we don’t know how to express those feelings in a healthy way we can end up taking the pain and anger out on ourselves.

Does self-harm always mean cutting or burning oneself?

 Self-harming behaviour does not always mean cutting, burning, hair pulling, or punching. You might be doing other harmful things but not think of them as ‘self-harming’. These include:

  • Substance abuse due to problems
  • Not eating, over-eating or forcing oneself to throw up- leading to eating disorders in teenagers
  • Spending time on addictive things like gaming, social media and so on
  • Over-exercising or exercising when one is injured
  • Getting into fights
  • Getting into risky situations
  • Engaging in risky sexual behaviour

Self-harm is a coping mechanism so while it brings temporary relief when things start building up again, we feel like we have to harm ourselves again, and it can get really hard to break out of this cycle.

When we are choosing to self-harm as a way to cope it's important to know that we can stop.

Overcoming Self-Harm

  • Talk to someone: Talking with a person you trust about how you are feeling brings great relief. This can be a friend, family member, teacher, or school counsellor. Think about whom you feel safe communicating with and how you feel most comfortable talking, whether face-to-face, by text or over the phone.
  • Get professional help: Professional help can make a big difference. Learn that it is okay to ask for help. We all need help sometimes, and it does not make you weak- it takes bravery and strength to reach out.
  • Keep a journal: Take a few moments daily to write how you feel; this can be a great way to express your emotions.

Small things that can boost your mood

Overcoming self-harm is not an easy task, here are some things you can do to make the process easier:

  • Consider how social media affects your mood. Follow accounts or influencers that make you feel positive and safe.
  • Get adequate sleep and stay hydrated- this can help reduce your stress levels.
  • Take time to relax.
  • Think of three things to be grateful for each day.
  • Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself like you would treat your best friend.

Helpline numbers

If you are feeling suicidal or thinking about harming yourself, please contact a professional for online counselling and therapy.

You can also dial one of the crisis hotlines listed below. The service provided by the following helplines is not affiliated with or guaranteed by TSTA, and these numbers are provided for reference purposes only.




+91 8422 9 845 28

+91 8422 9845 30

+91 8422 9845 29


+91 9152987821


+91 11 23389090

+91 9315 7678 49


+91 11 41198666

Arpita Suicide Prevention helpline

+91 8023 6555 57

Mann Talks

+91 8686 1391 39


+91 8025 7225 73

+91 9019 7081 33

Vandrevala Foundation

+91 9999 666 555