mental health, therapy, counseling and psychology terms glossary


Self-Harm is not an illness in itself but it is often linked to emotional distress. Individuals who practice self-harm use it as a coping mechanism to help soften bad feelings. Self-harm can include things like cutting, biting, scratching, burning, and consuming poisonous or harmful substances.

Self-harm is common in teens and young adults who suffer from depression, anxiety, or eating disorders, but it is also seen in adults as well. The physical pain that self-harm delivers can distract from feelings of emotional pain – it helps to relieve tension and provides an escape. Self-harm may also be used to punish oneself for feelings of inadequacy or self-loathing – or for displaced anger for something else they can’t control.

It is important to know that individuals who use self-harm are not typically suicidal, but are instead using physical pain as a way to cope with mental pain. However, self-harm can lead to accidental death so it is imperative to get help for this condition. Therapy and support groups can help to bring the problems down to a manageable level and help to develop more healthy strategies for coping.

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