We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click accept my preferences we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on our website. Visit our Cookie Policy and our Privacy Policy for more information about managing your cookies.

Current preferences

You are here:DisordersSelf-harmWhat are the symptoms of self-harm?

What are the symptoms of self-harming?

Below, we will give some examples of ways in which people inflict self-harm. If you’re feeling very vulnerable or worried that you may be at risk of self-harm, it might be better to read these examples at a different time as the methods described could be triggering.

Self-harm can take many forms, but may include:

  • Cutting or burning of the skin using objects, or inserting objects into the body
  • Scratching, biting or pulling at skin
  • Undereating or overeating
  • Over exercising (which can be linked to undereating)
  • Poisoning yourself with toxic substances
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs
  • Banging of the head or hitting yourself
  • Deliberate risky behaviour that is likely to cause injury, for instance getting into fights

Some people may only use one method of self-harm, other people may be using a combination of different methods to cope with extremely troubling internal feelings or experiences.

People who self-harm can be very secretive about their harming as they may feel ashamed that they need to harm or may be afraid that others will try to remove their coping mechanisms when they find out they are harming.

Someone who always wears long sleeves and trousers, even during the summer months, could be concealing scars or burns, or they may not wish to eat in front of others so that their food intake is not seen as unusual by other people.

It’s not always easy to spot when someone is self-harming and the person harming may find it difficult to talk about their self-harm if it is discovered unexpectedly.