Self-harm, or self-mutilation, is the act of deliberately inflicting pain and damage to one's own body. Self-harm most often refers to cutting, burning, scratching, and other forms of external injury; it can, however, also include internal or emotional harm, such as consuming toxic amounts of alcohol or drugs or participating in unsafe sex.
While self-injury can look like attempted suicide—and some who self-harm do ultimately go on to attempt suicide—many people who intentionally hurt themselves are not suicidal. Rather, they are simply taking extreme measures to distract themselves from the challenges of daily life or attempting to release themselves from unbearable mental anguish.
Individuals who self-injure may feel that doing so helps release pent-up feelings of anxiety, anger, or sadness. But evidence finds that over time, those raw emotions—along with additional feelings of guilt and shame—will continue to be present, and may even worsen. In addition, self-harm can be dangerous in itself, even if the individual has no wish to cause themselves significant damage.
Ultimately, it's critical to find healthier ways to cope. Seeking the help of a therapist, or discussing self-harm with a trusted love one, are good avenues by which to start.