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What is Self Harm?


People self-harm for different reasons.

If you self-harm you might:

  • have a difficult family life, or relationship
  • feel bullied,
  • have depression, anxiety or personality disorder,
  • have issues with housing and relationships, or
  • take drugs or drink too much alcohol.

When all or some of these things are happening, you might find you have an urge to self harm. If you self-harm a lot you might do it for different reasons every time. It can help to try and work out what that problem is. This can mean you get the right help or treatment.

You might self-harm:

  • to deal with strong emotions like anger or sadness,
  • as a way of communicating how you’re feeling
  • as a way of feeling in control or,
  • to punish yourself for things you think you’ve done wrong.

Dealing with strong emotions 

You might find it hard to cope with emotions and feelings. You may self-harm because you feel overwhelmed. 

Physical pain can distract you when you are in emotional pain. When you are in physical pain your brain releases chemicals which can make you feel better. 


You may self-harm to try and show others how you feel.Some people may think that this is attention-seeking, but they are wrong. 

You might have tried other ways of letting other people know how you are feeling. You may find it hard to understand how you feel and self-harm to make sense of it yourself. 


Self-harm can be a way of feeling in control of your body. You may have gone through some traumatic experiences in your life. This could include emotional, physical or sexual abuse. You may self harm as a way of managing memories of trauma.


Some people who self harm may do it as a way of punishing themselves for feelings or behaviour that they think are their fault. You may feel ‘bad’ or that you ‘hate yourself’.

No matter what reason you harm yourself, there is help available to overcome the feelings you have been dealing with. 

Gloucestershire Council
Care Quality Commission

Gloucestershire Self Harm helpline is a partnership between Rethink Mental Illness and Gloucestershire County Council.

Rethink Mental Illness is a registered charity in the UK. Registered in England Number 1227970. Registered Charity Number 271028.