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Self Harming


Harming and inflicting injury on your self deliberately can take many forms such as cutting, burning, scratching, stabbing and bruising and may take place sporadically or regularly. Such actions are rarely suicide attempts or merely attention-seeking behaviour but, rather, outward expressions of serious emotional problems. Resorting to self-harming is often a way of coping with difficulties and may serve to:

  • Legitimise feelings of pain
  • Gain a sense of control
  • Distract and bring a sense of relief
  • Manage unacceptable feelings
  • Punish oneself
  • Express shame and self hatred
  • Overcome numbness and restore a capacity to feel
  • Externalise internal pain
  • Let others know something is not right

Often self-harming comes about through an inner turmoil (perhaps feeling powerless, trapped or without choice) or from experiences which are difficult to handle in the past or present. It is common for people who self harm to feel isolated and lacking in support and unable to express their distress in a healthy way.

Moving out of self harming

Firstly, it is important to care for injuries appropriately and seek first aid or medical help if required.

It is useful to understand the need to self-harm by talking it through with someone who can help to explore the emotional distress attached to the behaviours. Research shows that professional support can be helpful. It may be important to consider alternative coping strategies that are more constructive. It can be useful to log self-harming situations and to monitor what prompts the thoughts and emotions.

Getting Support

The Wellbeing Support Services are available for students at the University of Warwick:

Medical support and information can be obtained from GP practices of health centres

For more information: - a free app to support people trying to resist or manage their urges to self-harm

TESS - text and email support service for girls and young women affected by self-injury.

Text: 07800472908 (charged at your normal rate) Email:

Self-help booklet on Self-harm

'It gets brighter' - information and videos on dealing with mental health difficulties:

The University of Warwick cannot be responsible for the content of other websites


Self-help references

The following references are available from the University Library either in hard copy, CD or ebooks. Most are readily available to buy either in bookshops or over the internet. There are also a limited number of books in the Learning Grid and the Bio-med Grid.


Self-harm – perspectives from personal experience


Chipmunka / survivors speak out

Healing the Hurt Within : Understand Self-injury and Self-harm, and Heal the Emotional Wounds {3Rd Ed.}

Jan Sutton


Life After Self-harm : A Guide to the Future

Ulrike Schmidt, Kate M Davidson


Cutting – the risk (self-harm, self-care and risk reduction)

National self harm network

National self harm network

Cutting: understanding and overcoming self-mutilation


W W Norton


For a comprehensive list of other references.

The University of Warwick cannot be responsible for the content of other websites