Self-harm & Cutting

What is self-harm?

self-harm & cutting @ auckland therapy : counselling and psychotherapySelf-harm is the deliberate infliction of injury on one’s body but without necessarily wanting to die. The most obvious example is cutting the skin with a razor or other sharp implement. Other examples are burning the skin with cigarettes or biting one’s self.

Why do people cut?

Self-harm can counteract emotional distress as physical pain can block out and distract from psychological pain, and can even have a calming effect. It is a way of managing emotions in some ways similar to the way people use physical exertion when they are upset, such as going for a run, cleaning the bathroom or digging the garden.

Causes of self-harm

Self-harming often begins in teenage years. During this time the brain and body are undergoing great changes, moving from childhood to adulthood; becoming independent, forming gender identity and developing sexuality. Enormous changes in the brain accompany the physical and hormonal changes of puberty. For some teenagers, this results in massive emotional intensity before they are ready to manage these feelings. The result can be overwhelming as uncontrolled emotions, such as failure, loneliness or rejection, often feel scary and shameful. Anyone who feels isolated or different is particularly as risk. As a result, some teenagers start self-harming to cope, especially when difficult things are happening in their lives.

Self-harm problems

Sometimes self-harming starts as a way of relieving boredom or as experimentation. The trouble is it can become rather habit forming. Like any habit, more and more injury may be required to get the same effect. All this means self-harm may escalate and become increasingly dangerous.

It is also a lonely way of coping. Because self-harm frequently shocks and upsets others, it is often kept a secret. Someone who is self-harming often feels ‘cut-off’ from their family and friends; that no one understands them or can help them. The resulting isolation also interferes with normal psychological growth and development.

People who self-harm often go it alone, determined not to show any weakness or need anyone else, while feeling quite desperate. This mix can sometimes include thoughts of death, frustration, and hostility to most everyone and everything, including themselves.

Therapy for self-harm

Therapy offers a safe space to be just as you are with someone who understands the unbearable feelings that underlie self-harm. A therapist will stand by you in the storm, help you bear the unbearable, work with you to understand what is going on, then sort it out together and find a way through to a better place.

Find a Therapist

For Children & Teenagers

Our Child & adolescent team have particular interest and experience in working with self-harm. You are welcome to contact any of them for further information or for an appointment.

For Adults

You are welcome to contact any of our Auckland Therapists.

For Eating Disorders

About 25% of people with eating disorders also self-harm. Please contact any of our Eating disorders team for further information or an appointment.

For Asperger's & Autism

Some people with Asperger's or autism display various self-injurious behaviours. Colleen Emmens (Mt Eden) has specialist knowledge and experience in working with ASD in children and adults.


There are rare types of self-harm associated with delusions, hallucinations or suicidal behaviour. If you are concerned that someone has lost touch with reality, or is at serious risk to themselves or another, please seek emergency advice or help.

For emergencies please seek immediate advice from Healthline (0800 611 116), immediate medical attention, immediate help from emergency services (111), or the new mental health emergency service (phone or txt) 1737.


self harm @ Auckland Therapy