Why do People Self-Harm? You Asked – Here’s the Answer


In this piece for The Guardian, Jay Watts explores the social and societal factors that often lead to self-harm and explains how psychiatric labeling can exacerbate self-harm.

“Self-harm is also often the result of a clash between an ideal image and one’s self-image. For example, if a teenager feels that they have to do brilliantly at school to get into a top university for Mum and Dad, not achieving that 10th A* can feel like a shattering blow crystallising long-held beliefs that they are not good enough. Early caregiving has a crucial function in ensuring kids develop a good-enough self-image that can withstand the bumps and bruises of life. However, the likelihood that an acceptable sense of self will collapse is also a function of the ideals of society at any given time, hence the current epidemic of self-harm.

A neoliberal culture that pits kids against one another at an ever earlier age, digital culture, and a hypersexualised environment that privileges certain body-ideals all serve to increase the likelihood of a catastrophic gulf between the ideal and actual self-image. Discrimination is also a huge trigger behind the startling rates of self-harm in LGBT communities. Societal hatred of difference gets drip fed into individuals whatever their conscious beliefs, and enacted on their own body.”


  1. It’s really not that complicated. It’s a coping mechanism that “professionals” use to pull you into the system and keep you there. In my own experience, medication increase the need to self injure to soothe the restlessness and numbing they induce.
    Also, who is defining self-injury? I see tattoos and body piercings as socially acceptable ways of self-injuring that few people question. This shows the subjective nature of such a term. One that is used to exert control over a persons life because we don’t understand the reaction.

    Report comment