Self harm means any behaviour which involves the deliberate causing of pain or injury to oneself — usually as an extreme way of trying to cope with distressing or painful feelings. Self-harm includes cutting, burning or hitting oneself, binge-eating or starvation, or repeatedly putting oneself in dangerous situations. It can also involve abuse of drugs or alcohol, including overdosing on prescription medications.

Self harm is relatively common. Research shows that about 1% of Australians have self-harmed within the last month and about 8% have self-harmed in their lifetime. Most people start self-harming as a teenager or young adult. It can continue for many years and become a habit that is difficult to stop.

Examples of self-harm may include:

  • Cutting the skin with sharp objects
  • Taking an overdose of medication or drinking poison
  • Burning the skin
  • Hitting the body with fists or another object
  • Punching walls or other objects
  • Scratching or picking the skin, resulting in bleeding or welts
  • Pulling out hairs

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