What is Self-Harming Behavior?

Self-harming behavior are actions where you intentionally injure your body. The most common reason for self-harm is to relieve or remove painful feelings such as anxiety, anger or emptiness.

Why are People Affected?

Anyone with an unbearable feeling usually tries to get rid of it. Some have heard of self-harm and try if that works. There are many different conditions where self-harm can be included and there is not just an explanation for how the behavior occurs.

For those who do not self-harm, the behavior can seem very strange and stupid. But common to anyone who does self-harm is that they try to do what they can to feel better. Often, they’ve tried other strategies first. Self-harm occurs when nothing else works.

Some who self-harm do so because it feels like they’ll explode, have a fit, die or commit suicide if they don’t get relief. It’s important to remember that not all self-harm represents a desire to die. On the contrary, for some it can be a way to survive.


Self-harm can be done by cutting, hitting yourself, burning, scalding, pounding body parts against the wall and more. It can be visible as wounds, scars and bandages. Some cut themselves in places that others can see. Others cut themselves in places that others can’t notice. That people cut themselves just to get attention is a misconception. Other mental illnesses are common in self-harming behavior, such as depression or anxiety symptoms.

When should you seek care?

If you’ve started to harm yourself and are unable to stop on your own, you should seek care. Often, there are other mental illnesses that need treatment at the same time. If you also have suicidal thoughts, you should seek medical attention immediately.


  • Tell someone close to you. It’s important that you have someone to talk to, among other things, to decide if you should seek help.
  • There are elements of habits in self-harm. If you do this often and for a long time, it may be more difficult to stop. It’s a strong reason not to live alone with it but to turn to someone instead.
  • It may be helpful to make a list of other strategies to relieve difficult feelings. For example, you can call a friend, take a quick walk, do push-ups or other things that may not be as effective, but postpone or counteract self-harming behavior.