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Is self harm only physical, or can you harm yourself emotionally as well?

27 Answers
Last Updated: 02/15/2022 at 8:09am
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Tara Davis, Doctorate in Counselling Psychology


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Top Rated Answers
June 22nd, 2015 12:47pm
Self harm can definitely be emotional in nature. Over thinking things, or wallowing in self deprecating emotions of guilt or worthlessness, can cause just as much damage, if not more, than the prick of a blade. A cut can be seen, and so when the wound is fresh one can gauge its depth and severity, and watch it heal. Self inflicted emotional pain cannot be seen, so one can neither gauge how deep the wound runs, nor can you be sure it is healing. Sometimes it is easy to slip into a phase of not wanting to heal, and subconsciously one can keep aggravating their pain, deriving from it the same pleasure as a physical wound.
April 1st, 2015 6:59pm
Self-harm is often thought of as only physical (i.e., cutting, burning, etc.), but self-harm can also be emotional. Self-harm is just that, harming the self. Anything you do to intentionally make yourself hurt for reasons that are not socially acceptable, can be viewed as self-harm. Some emotional things people do that may be classified as self-harm are: staying in an emotionally-unstable relationship and purposefully doing things that you know may make you feel sad, upset, or depressed (this does not include schoolwork, home chores, or going to ballet practice, but may include things like revisiting old events that upset you, such as bullying or abuse).
May 27th, 2015 11:58pm
Self harm is a conduit for release from emotional stress. It makes you feel better in the short term, that's true. However it can cause emotional damage because you become addicted to the relief that the harm brings you and then you are stuck in a cycle.
February 11th, 2015 5:26am
Definitely! From my experience, sometimes, I imagine hurting myself, or someone I love hurting, and that really impacts me. Sometimes, I might even imagine scenarios that also might hurt me, such as the people I love hurting me. This can impact the relationships I have indirectly and my mental wellbeing.
January 16th, 2015 1:17am
Self harm is both physical and mental. Any form of putting yourself down can honestly be considered self-harm, but certain statements, such as "I don't deserve to be alive", etc, are harmful emotionally. Also, physical self-harm is harmful emotionally as well.
- Expert in Self-Harm
April 7th, 2015 7:00am
Typically, when describing oneself as a 'self-harmer' or saying 'I self-harm' people mean that they inflict some form of immediate physical injury to themselves (cut, hit, burn, scratch, pick, break, bite...). It is with those things in mind that self-harm support communities are formed. However, you may also benefit from some of the coping skills taught through DBT and CBT which are often the focus on self-harm support groups if you hurt yourself in other ways (emotional, eating disorders, smoking, etc). However, it's not the best descriptor to say 'I self harm' when you aren't referring to an injury that is: physical, inflicted in a manner that causes immediate harm, and done with the purpose of altering an emotional state. That doesn't mean what you're going through and doing isn't serious and valid, it just means the term "self-harm" isn't the most accurate term for your situation. You might find terms like: negative self talk, self-hate, self-abuse, or the like a more fitting word/phrase to describe your experiences in ways others will understand.
May 28th, 2015 9:44pm
I think that you can harm yourself emotionally as well, in ways such as telling yourself you aren't worth it. By breaking your confidence you can hurt yourself. Not loving yourself, or not standing up for yourself. Letting yourself get hurt. I think that you can both physically and emotionally harm yourself.
June 29th, 2015 9:06pm
I was reading an article based sort of around this idea and if you are intentionally breaking skin then it is self harm but if you are just hurting yourself emotionally then it is self damaging or something like that (I think that was the word but not sure) anyway, it is still harmful but in a different way to self harm.
June 6th, 2015 3:12am
Emotional harm can be from calling yourself names to saying no one wants you around. Physical and emotional pain can hurt plenty equal
January 2nd, 2017 6:44am
Self harm is both physical and emotional. For example, if I kept repeating to myself in my head, "you're worthless, you're stupid," it would be considered self harm. You are poisoning yourself with harmful ideas to your self esteem that are not true and could potentially be life threatening to yourself in the long run.
August 22nd, 2016 5:51am
I feel it is more emotionally harmful, physical pain heals, but the emotional scarring last for a long time.
February 14th, 2017 5:25pm
I believe that self-harm starts emotionally. You start to hate yourself, therefore trying to hurt yourself. Why do people harm themselves physically? To forget the emotional pain they are suffering from. The painful physical wound would make the "invisible" wound dissipates for few moments, which is why people keep harming themselves, to run away from the invisible hell they are in.
April 17th, 2018 7:30pm
Emotional self harm is totally a real thing! It's often ignored, but 100% exists. I used to do things just because it would hurt me emotionally, just remember that you're valid
June 17th, 2015 11:08am
Yes. Emotionally as in it can make you feel euphoric (feel good, happy, stronger...ect.) Of course it depends on the person as well. Just my experience though, i used to do it.
June 30th, 2015 1:52am
Yes, self injury is just a kind of self harm. Not letting yourself do things you want to do could be considered self harm, but not all doctors would agree.
May 25th, 2018 3:52am
It most definitely can be emotional and most of the time I think it is. It's frustrating when people nudge the issue of emotional self-harm as just over-thinking or being too emotional. It can lead to real and enduring damage to one's mental health.
March 6th, 2017 5:40pm
You can harm yourself emotionally as well as physically when it comes to self harm. Both me and my two friends are or were self harming, and in different ways. I hurt myself emotionally, telling myself I was stupid and didn't deserve to think my problems mattered and battered myself over it. But it is just as bad a physically abusing yourself.
April 25th, 2015 7:17am
I think that this is a hard question to answer. I don't self-injure but am an admin of a board which supports people who do. I joined that board because a close IRL friend self-injures and I wanted to learn how to try to support her. The board works on the premise that the "emotional" reasons which lead people to use self-injury as a coping mechanism are more important than the physical details - reflection those reasons has helped many board members to find coping mechanisms other that self-injury. Of course the physical aspect can be important as well. If somebody has self-injured to the extent that their physical health is at risk then getting urgent medical attention for their cuts or burns is a good idea.
May 8th, 2015 1:56am
i believe you can emotionally harm yourself with it too. After self-harming, there is always that chance for regret. stay strong! the 7 cups community is here for you
July 26th, 2016 4:46pm
Both are harmful.The mind is a toxic place.That's why it's good to practice positive thinking everyday love :)
May 9th, 2016 2:17pm
It is possible to self harm mentally, which will lead to harming yourself emotionally. Harming yourself mentally is like calling yourself names or saying you're "worthless". If you are someone thinking about harming yourself mentally, my suggestion is to think about something that you did good in life and feel really proud of.
July 11th, 2017 7:37pm
Well yes you can!!! An example of emotionally harming yourself is by telling yourself untruthful stuff like I'm not good enough
July 7th, 2020 3:21am
You can harm yourself emotionally. You can trigger yourself emotionally. By making assumptions and dwell in it is harmful. By saying bad things about yourself is harmful. Stating how bad you look, how stupid you are, that you don't deserve love, all of them is harmful. You make yourself cry, anxious, hard to breathe, feeling not good enough, etc. It's hard, indeed. Take your time, find a way to cope, breathe. I always unconsciously hurt myself emotionally and I end up dwelling in the thought for months. We're still learning to control it so take your's alright. I pray the best for you.
June 21st, 2016 1:25am
Self harm is not only physical but it but it can also harm you emotionally as well because you are in pain even more
July 4th, 2016 8:25pm
Of course. Self harm is a temporary relief of the world, some people feel guilty or sad after doing it. hurting your body will not take the problems away. So, you're not only hurting yourself physically but emotionally as well.
August 24th, 2021 8:11am
I am no certified professional but from all that I have studied in my classes, I would say yes. Personally I believe in fact that a larger population harms themselves emotionally than physically and we might not be even aware. Criticizing yourself for mistake, scrutinizing your personality and its flaws, not allowing yourself to feel emotions wholly (especially for men because of the idea of toxic masculinity) etcetera are some that come to my mind. Self harming in this manner leaves scars that others may not see but they really do impact yourself, your confidence, your self-esteem and identity. Know that you are only human and there is absolutely no need for perfection, perhaps you can try but when and if you fail do not beat yourself up. This is coming from a recent personal experience wherein because of fear of failure and the possibility that I may not score as well or even decently I stressed myself out to great extents and cancelled my admission in two weeks. So I am trying to bring down the bar for myself and for my mental health, so try and do the same for yourself too.
February 15th, 2022 8:09am
You can definitely harm yourself emotionally as well. You can gaslight yourself, invalidate your feelings, stop yourself from reaching out for help, manipulate yourself, show excessive self-criticism for yourself, fail to set boundaries leading to feeling resentment or disappointment, keep your needs always at the end. These are some of the ways by which people can harm themselves emotionally. It is very important to be aware of these things to be able to recognize them when they're actually being done. Once you do recognize them, it's important to try to stop. Self-acceptance and self-awareness can lead to self-love which is imperative.