What is self-harm?

Self-harm is any behaviour carried out as a way to intentionally hurt yourself. Self-harm is more than just a physical act. It’s often used as a way to manage overwhelming emotional distress.


Some people use self-harm as a form of self-punishment or in an attempt to stop feelings of dissociation and numbness. Others may use it as a way to make emotional pain visible. Very often, it’s a combination of all of these factors that leads a person to self-harm.

What are the different types of self-harm?

  • Cutting or severely scratching your skin
  • Burning or scalding yourself
  • Hitting yourself or banging your head
  • Punching things or throwing your body against walls or hard objects
  • Sticking objects into your skin
  • Intentionally preventing wounds from healing
  • Taking overdoses with tablets or toxic chemicals

While self-harm may provide some temporary relief in the moment, it can lead to serious injury. If you’re currently engaging in self-harming behaviours, it’s important that you reach out to your GP or a therapist.

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Treatment for self-harm

Self-harm often has its roots in trauma and for this reason, talking therapy is the most effective treatment. In therapy, you will learn healthier copy strategies for managing difficult emotions so that self-harm no longer feels like the only option.


One of the most effective treatments for self-harm is dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT). DBT aims to understand the sequence of events and triggers that can lead to an episode of self-harm. It is a non-judgmental therapy that works to increase your understanding around why you resort to this behaviour. DBT will teach you a range of emotional management strategies and it can be delivered either as individual therapy, in a group or as a combination of the two.

Frequently asked questions

If you have started to engage in self-harm in order to deal with difficult emotions, it’s important to seek professional help as soon as possible. People can put themselves at high levels of risk in order to manage their emotions and self-harm can have serious consequences. Please consult your GP or seek the support of a psychologist or psychiatrist as soon as possible.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and Schema Therapy are the most effective treatments for self-harm.

Yes, you should definitely still seek help. The fact that you are engaging in self-harm indicates that you are experiencing high levels of stress and you don’t have the sufficient coping mechanisms in place to deal with these emotions. It’s important to intervene as soon as possible before self-harm becomes more of a long-term pattern.

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Dr Elena Touroni

Dr Elena Touroni is a skilled and experienced consultant psychologist with a track record of delivering high-quality services for individuals with all common emotional difficulties and those with a diagnosis of personality disorder. She is experienced in service design and delivery, the management of multi-disciplinary teams, organisational consultancy, and development and delivery of both national and bespoke training to providers in the statutory and non-statutory sector.

Having obtained a first degree in Psychology (BSc) at the American College of Greece, she completed her doctoral training at the University of Surrey. Dr Touroni is highly experienced in the assessment and treatment of depression, anxiety, substance misuse, personality disorder, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, adjustment disorder and relationship difficulties. She works with both individuals and couples and can offer therapy in English and Greek.

Dr Touroni has held a variety of clinical and managerial positions including as Head of Service in the NHS. Further she has held academic positions for the University of Surrey and the Institute of Mental Health lecturing on specialist postgraduate Masters and Doctorate programmes.

She is trained in several specialist therapeutic approaches such as schema therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness-based approaches and Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT). As well as holding a variety of NHS positions, Dr. Touroni is the co-founder of a private practice in Central London that has been a provider of psychological therapy for all common emotional difficulties including personality disorder since 2002. She is the founder and one of two directors of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic.