Self-harm is a deliberate act involving self-injury or self-poisoning. It may involve cutting oneself, hitting, scratching, burning, pulling hair, overdosing, banging head against the wall or throwing oneself against the wall. It may also involve swallowing inappropriate objects. In certain cases excessive tattooing or piercing can be considered as acts of self-harm. It is important to look at the motivation behind tattooing or piercing in order to determine as to whether it is actual self-harm.

A person who self-harms regularly is using the process as a method to alter their mood (the same effect as someone using drugs). They often talk about feeling isolated or feeling totally overwhelmed when dealing with life's circumstances and the act of self-harming gives them a feeling of being in total control during these times. Many individuals also use self-harming as a punishment due to low self-esteem and self-loathing accompanied with feelings of worthlessness. They describe the act of self-harming as something to relieve tension and get rid of built up pressure.

It is usually a secretive and hidden illness and the individual becomes more and more withdrawn and may become socially isolated.

Self-harming behaviour is often accompanied by other addictions, very often eating disorders but there may also be chemical and alcohol dependency.

Recovery in a group setting helps the individual to step into a safe environment and stop the isolating and secrecy which surround self-harming. It is about learning to respect oneself and accept the help and support of others in a similar situation.