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Self Harm

What is Self Harm?

Sometimes, thoughts, feelings and experiences can seem too overwhelming or difficult to handle. Loss, trauma, feelings of emptiness, or loss of control are all reasons why people may self-harm. People may cope with these experience by hurting themselves. For some, self-harm may turn emotional pain into physical pain, which can be easier to understand and resolve. Most of the time, these individuals do not have an active wish to die. They hurt themselves by cutting, burning, or hitting themselves as a way to feel better. Self-harm is typically a symptom of another mental illness, such as depression, rather than a mental illness on its own.

Self-harm is most common in adolescents, and typically in females. People who self-harm may have suffered a significant stress or trauma in their life.

Warning Signs

Often, people who self-harm do so in private. They may feel guilty, embarrassed, or ashamed. Some warning signs to pay attention to include:

  • Unexplained frequent injuries
  • Unexplained scars
  • Wearing long sleeved shirts and long pants, even in warm weather
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty managing emotions
  • Challenges with relationships


If you’re worried about someone who may be self-harming, its important to learn more about it and talk about it. If you self-harm, it’s important to get the right treatment. Self-harming can actually indicate that you’re experiencing an unresolved mental illness that requires attention and care.

  • Take care of your injuries; if you’re worried about an injury, call 911 or go to the hospital
  • Talk to someone your trust; a family member, friend, teacher, or counsellor can be helpful
  • Talk to your physician

Dalton Associates can help you find a mental health professional who has expertise in treating self-harm, and is a personal and cultural fit. Your therapist can help you learn new skills on how to effectively cope with difficult thoughts, feelings and past experiences without self-harming, or how to support someone struggling with self-harming behaviours.


DeAngelis, T. (2015). A new look at self-injury. American Psychological Association, 46, 7.
Retrieved from

Canadian Mental Health Association. (2016). Youth and self-injury.
Retrieved from

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