What is Self-Harm & Why Do People Do It?

Today we’re going to talk about self-harm, what is it and why do people do it?

I’m Angela Howard, my passion is to break the stigma of mental illness among fellow Christians. I’m here to help you live a more purposeful life with God, and with one another. Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you can get the first updates of new content.

What is Self-Harm?

Self-harm is when you hurt or harm yourself without the intention of killing yourself. It isn’t just about cutting. It can be a range of things from cutting yourself deeply, scratching, biting, punching things, throwing your body against something, hitting your head, punching yourself, intentionally keeping a wound from healing, even sticking objects into your skin, or swallowing poisonous substances.

Self-harm is usually a secondary issue. We might have depression, anxiety, trauma, eating disorders, borderline personality disorder, OCD, or bipolar disorder. We could be experiencing any of these things and we use self-harm to deal with an experience or a mental illness that is overwhelming us.

When someone is self-harming they are expressing or trying to deal with deep emotional pain. The physical pain seems to make more sense than the emotional pain. Please don’t try to simplify it by saying that it’s just an effort to get attention. For some reason injuring themselves is the only way that seems to help them cope with feelings of sadness, anger, guilt, worthlessness, and fear. It can be a distraction from overwhelming feelings that seem too much to handle.

Why Do People Self-Harm?

When people have shared with me, over the years, about this struggle, they often say it’s pain that you can control. It’s saying, “This is what I feel like on the inside,” and having a tangible injury to point to.

Sometimes it’s a response to extreme anger. We might feel anger towards someone and we turn that anger inward, because we don’t want to deal with the fall out in a particular relationship from really showing how we feel.

Many times we feel numb and want to experience some kind of feeling, even if it is pain.

We also might self-harm to get the release of endorphins, and that is a type of self-medication.

Other times we might use self-harm when disassociating from a traumatic experience like sexual or physical abuse. It’s a way to escape the pain and disappear inside yourself.

Self-harm can be hard to understand, so if you or a loved one have ever struggled with this, please do your best not to overreact, but to find out where the true pain is coming from. This is most successfully done through therapy. More on that next week!


 “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7

Notice that it doesn’t say, all of your worries—except self-harm, that’s off limits. God cares for YOU period.


We’re going to be taking a whole month to address self-harm. Comment below, let me know your thoughts, I’d love to hear from you!

Please subscribe to our Youtube Channel for more videos. I’ll be sharing some great tips and encouragement for whatever you’re facing, whether you’re struggling with a mental illness, or have a loved one who does.

Connect to a counselor: https://hisheartfoundation.org/request-a-counselor-referral/