Self-Harm, also referred to as self-injury, is defined by the Mayo Clinic as “the act of deliberately harming your own body, such as cutting or burning yourself.” Self-harm can also include things such as hitting yourself, banging your head, scratching yourself, punching the walls until you get hurt, or ingesting poisons.
Self-harm though injurious is different than suicide or suicidal ideation/intention. Most who people who engage in self-injurious behaviors are not attempting to kill themselves; they see it as the best way to deal with their pain, so they can keep on living. This is a coping mechanism that “works” for some people; for a time it helps relieve tension, reduces numbness and/or creates a distraction from the stressful life event. But self-harm is much like other unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs and alcohol: the effects are temporary, the behavior can be addictive and though outsiders can easily see the dangers, the person engaged in it cannot.
Emotionally and relationally, people engaged in self-harm are often isolated from others, filled with shame and self-hatred, and have developed effective skills at hiding reality from those closest to them. Counseling creates a new environment where they can be known, improve their outlook on themselves, develop healthier coping skills and improve on their relationships with others.