Self-harm is a difficult topic to discuss, but it’s essential that we bring awareness to the issue and give resources to those struggling. Unfortunately, many people suffer from shame or guilt regarding their self-injurious behavior, which can prevent them from seeking help.

Understanding the causes of self-harm

While it can be challenging to understand why someone would hurt themselves in this way, it’s essential to recognize that these actions aren’t caused by a desire for attention—they’re coping strategies used as a way to express feelings of intense sadness or anger that cannot otherwise seem manageable. Self-harm is a complex and dangerous behavior involving deliberately hurting one’s body to cope with mental health issues. It can include anything from cutting and burning to hair pulling or overdosing on drugs.

Though the behavior may be an effort to gain control over emotional pain, it can cause physical and psychological harm long after it occurs. People may use self-harm to cope with distress, complex thoughts, feelings, or traumatic memories. In the short term, it can help an individual relax or get some relief from tension; however, in the long run, it can cause further suffering from guilt or shame.

While there is no single explanation for why someone might turn to self-harm, there can be many underlying factors, such as depression or anxiety, which can lead them into a downward spiral of unhealthy coping strategies. Despite appearing like dangerous behavior on its own, self-harm is often part of an ongoing battle against trauma and underlying mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, or substance use disorder—all of which require treatment to reduce the likelihood of continued harming behaviors.

Recognizing the signs of self-harm

Self-harm can manifest itself in many different ways. Some common signs that a person may be engaging in self-harm include feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and thoughts of suicide or death. Other physical warning signs might include visible marks on the body (such as cuts, scratches, burns), avoiding group activities or social gatherings, pictures or drawings suggesting death or self-harm, increased use of alcohol or drugs, and refusal to communicate with others.

Other ways to recognize self-harm are sudden changes in behavior or attitude, notably becoming defensive and hostile when asked about certain parts of their life. Engaging in cutting or burning oneself and collecting sharp objects like razor blades or knives deserves particular attention. If you’re worried about a loved one, the best thing you can do is approach them with empathy and understanding; encourage them to seek the help they need, and support them throughout their journey however you can.

The effects of self-harm on the body and mind

Self-harm can be a debilitating experience, affecting not only the body but also the mind. It typically results in physical and emotional scars and other damaging side effects such as depression and suicidal ideation. Although it may seem like self-harm is an easy way to cope with difficult emotions, its long-term repercussions should not be overlooked. It is important to seek supportive help from qualified professionals who can provide resources and strategies to better manage emotions in healthier ways.

The journey can be hard, but there is hope: a healthier life without self-harm is attainable with support, patience, and understanding. Fortunately, more resources are available now than ever for people struggling with self-harm that can offer support and help individuals learn how to cope with the underlying issues rather than resorting to techniques of self-injury.

Developing Healthy Coping Strategies to Replace Self-Harm Behavior

Developing healthy coping strategies for self-harm is important in finding long-term solutions to manage difficult emotions and situations. It can feel overwhelming to stop engaging in self-harming behaviors, but with the right support and guidance, it is possible to gain a better understanding of how to identify and cope with strong feelings as they arise. One way to build healthier coping strategies is by exploring different activities to help you manage your thoughts and feelings.


Journaling can be an effective way of processing difficult emotions and gaining insight into your thoughts and feelings. It is a non-intimidating approach to express what may feel too hard to vocalize, and it can offer a safe space to explore personal struggles without judgment. In addition, writing down your inner thoughts and feelings can help you become more aware of the underlying sources of distress causing self-harming behavior and allow you to practice expressing those feelings constructively.

Additionally, journaling can track trends in your mental health over time, helping identify areas where intervention and support may be most beneficial. With regular journaling, you may find yourself better equipped to develop healthier coping strategies that reduce the need for self-harming behaviors.

Physical activity

Regular physical activity can be a powerful tool in reducing self-harming behavior. It promotes better mental clarity and can help decrease stress levels, which are common contributors to self-harm. In addition, exercise has been shown to trigger the release of endorphins, creating a sense of well-being and relief from tension.

Physical activity also offers an outlet for built-up frustration and anger that may be contributing to destructive behavior. Regular physical activity can provide structure and a positive distraction from negative thoughts and unhealthy impulses while helping to cultivate healthier coping skills and more positive behaviors over time.

Be patient and kind to yourself, start small, and celebrate your successes! With time, consistency, and dedication, you will continue strengthening positive coping mechanisms that best serve you long-term. While these strategies can help reduce the urge to self-harm, it is important to note that they are not a substitute for professional help. If you or someone you know is struggling with self-harm, reach out for support from qualified mental health professionals.

How to get help for self-harm

Self-harming behaviors are often a way for people to cope with difficult and overwhelming emotions. But unfortunately, these behaviors can lead to a deep cycle of pain and negative thoughts that become challenging to break. Therapy is essential for anyone trying to recover from self-harming behaviors because it provides a safe and supportive environment to explore the root causes of these actions and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

During therapy sessions, people gain insight into the thought patterns that trigger self-harming behaviors and learn how to develop a more positive response. Not only can a therapist provide insight, guidance, and techniques to manage symptoms and underlying causes of self-harm better, but they can also be a source of unconditional support as you progress toward recovery.

Therapy can offer a safe space free of judgment, where individuals can obtain the compassion they need to find freedom from self-destructive habits. At Serene Health, we provide compassionate and personalized care tailored to your needs. We work with each individual to explore the underlying causes of their self-harming behavior and develop healthier coping strategies to help them find peace of mind.

We offer a broad range of behavioral health and mental health services and also provide online therapy through our telehealth platform so you can speak to your therapist at a time and location that is convenient for you. Call us at 844-737-3638 or visit to book an appointment.