What is Self-harm?

Self-harm, or self-injury, is when someone hurts themselves on purpose as a way to express negative/stressful emotions, or as a distraction from those feelings. Of course there are many different reasons why people struggle with this, but self-harm is usually a sign of emotions that have been suppressed over time (ignored or not dealt with). For those who self-harm, sometimes it might feel like there’s no way to deal with that pain except to hurt yourself. If you’ve ever felt that way, or know someone who has, then here’s a little more info about what you might be going through.


Different types of self-harm

  • Cutting your skin with a sharp object
  • Burning yourself
  • Hitting your body with an object or with your fists
  • Picking at skin
  • Pulling at your hair
  • Excessive or dangerous use of mind-altering substances such as alcohol
  • Eating disorders
  • Emotional abuse – putting yourself down
  • Anorexia; starving yourself
  • Overeating/binge eating


What are the triggers?

Some of the things that can trigger an urge to self-harm are a low self-esteem, stress from school or home life, depression and anxiety and other mental health related issues. Even though the intention of self-harm isn’t to commit suicide, self-harm can lead to death if you accidentally cut a vein or cut yourself too deep and end up losing a lot of blood.


Signs and symptoms

  • Wounds or scars from cuts, bruises or burns, mostly on the wrists, arms, thighs, or chest – usually explained as “accidents”.
  • Blood stainson clothing, towels, or bedding; blood-soaked tissues.
  • Collecting sharp objectslike razors, knives or needles.
  • Covering up with long sleeves, even in hot weather.
  • Needing to be alone for long periods of time, especially in the bedroom or bathroom.
  • Isolation
  • Drastic change in behavior or emotional wellbeing


Getting help

The first step to helping yourself is to learn how to acknowledge your feelings by opening up to someone you trust, Choma. Asking someone else for help is not something to be ashamed of, it only makes you stronger.


You can also read my 5 steps to taking back your mental health, or contact the numbers below if you or someone you know is struggling with self-harm


The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG)

24hr Helpline: 0800 12 13 14



24 Hour Counselling Number: 011 422 4242 or 0861 322 322


If you need advice or help, remember that you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657)