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Self-harm is the urge or impulse to intentionally hurt oneself. Self-harm is often used as a coping mechanism when a person is experiencing emotional distress. Many people often associate self-harm with cutting, but there are a number of ways people engage in self-injury. It is important to note that self-harm is not a mental illness; it is a behavior caused by an inability to cope or manage one’s emotions and this may be indicative of an underlying mental illness such as depression or borderline personality disorder.

Self-harm can be a damaging cycle in more ways than one. A person may self-harm in order to gain release from their emotional distress but the wounds may later cause feelings of guilt or disgust, which only adds to the person’s negative built-up emotions. If you or someone you know self-harms or is at risk for this kind of behavior, it is important to seek professional help right away. Therapy or medication may be helpful treatments in minimizing a person’s impulse to self-harm. Often it can be helpful to speak to a doctor about other medical conditions causing the behavior so that those may be treated as well. If not treated or stopped, self-harming behavior can cause permanent physical damage or even result in death.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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