Can Emotional Self-Harm Be A Real Thing? Here Are The Signs!

Last Update on November 11, 2022 : Published on November 12, 2022

When we hear the word, “Self-harm” what comes to our minds instantly is physical proof in cuts and marks on bodies, but is physical self-harm the only type of self-harm a human is capable of, or can there be mental or emotional self-harm involved?

If I define self-harm, it would go something like this, “an intentional behavior that is considered harmful to oneself. This is most commonly regarded as direct injury of one’s own skin tissues usually without a suicidal intention.” However, when I talk about self-harm, it can come in many facets, not just direct physical injury. Self-harm means a lot more than just this.

Emotional self-harm is just that. When you intentionally hurt yourself – or rather your emotions – mostly using negative self-talk or language, that can be termed as emotional self-harm. Just like physical self-harm can pose a threat to our general wellness, emotional self-harm can be harmful to our overall mental and emotional well-being.

Let’s take a look at what is emotional self-harm, its signs, and how you can stop emotional self-harm.

What Is Emotional Self-Harm?


Nobody cares about me”, “I am unloved” or, “Everybody thinks I’m stupid” – when have we not thought along these lines at some point in our lives? Well, sometimes our inner critic is too loud, and every time something threatens our esteem and confidence, the voice in our heads screams at us, shaming us, and making us doubt ourselves.

We all have this inner voice but some of ours are way louder and harsher than others. This kind of subtle criticism that we subject ourselves to can be called emotional self-harm. These words we mark our minds and thoughts with can make us feel inadequate and not enough.

When we let our inner critic lose its criticism of us or leave the negative self-talk unchecked, it can cause us emotional self-harm, which turns into, low self-esteem, self-sabotage, depression, low self-worth, and underachievement.

Signs Of Emotional Self-Harm

Whether we like this or not, our minds can truly be our worst enemies at times. Just like our physical self-harm or self-injury can hurt us, similarly, unchecked emotional hurt and self-harm can do too. Here are some signs you’re engaging in emotional self-harm;

  • You constantly diminish your achievements
  • You constantly shame yourself with your insecurities
  • You have a poor sense of self and low self-esteem
  • You constantly feed your mind worst-case scenarios, fears, and worries
  • You engage in repetitive behaviors that cause long-term damage. For example, you actively seek narcissistic partners or turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Why Does It Develop?

When you trap yourself in a destructive and recurring pattern, you allow emotional self-harm to develop. Becoming aware of the destructive pattern can stop you, but it’s not the only thing. This kind of negative self-talk and self-blame can bring you to a place where you question your sanity by asking yourself, “Why do I keep doing this?”

This kind of emotional self-harm pattern is ingrained and can be challenging to break free from. With the help of the right professional, you can break the cycle of emotional self-harm, but before you need to understand why this pattern develops.

When you grow up in a secure environment where boundaries are respected and even encouraged, you grow up with healthy thinking and attachment patterns. However, when you grow up in a chaotic household where boundaries are non-existent, then you may develop maladaptive patterns of coping. These patterns of coping can range from self-sabotaging to emotional self-harm.

Keep in mind that patterns of coping can be developed in childhood. Sometimes, you may not even be aware that you have them, and can cloud every decision you make. These patterns can also disguise themselves as truths, for example; “Everyone will abandon me one day”

How To Break The Cycle Of Emotional Self-Harm?


You can break free from the negative pattern of emotional self-harm, but before that, you need to understand the thought patterns correctly. You need to accept that you’re bringing emotional and mental self-injury to the table. Once you’re aware of the mental self-injury, only then you’ll be able to replace your coping mechanisms.

Here are some ways you can stop emotional self-harm;

  • Psychotherapy: A mental health professional can help you figure out your negative and self-destructing patterns and how you can let go of them.
  • Mindfulness: When you learn the art of mindfulness, you learn how to stay in the present moment without letting your mind wander off to the negativity of the past or the worries of the future.
  • Celebrate: If you achieve something, then instead of berating yourself for it or undermining your achievements, celebrate them. Give yourself credit where it’s due.
  • Express Pride: Know that where you are right now is because of the struggles you faced and the challenges you won. Be proud of yourself. Know that even if things did not go the way you planned, you didn’t fail.
  • Set Boundaries: Sometimes, it’s OK to say “no”, especially when you feel that you’re pushing yourself beyond your limits. It’s OK to be selfish where your mental and emotional well-being is concerned.
  • Try Affirmations: Another best way to break the cycle and stop emotional self-harm is to keep reminding yourself that you’re worth it, you’re loved and that you’re enough as you are. You can try sticking these positive self-affirmations on your wall.

It’s OK to give in to the negative voice in your head but to lose yourself in it can be no less than bringing emotional self-harm. If you’ve been struggling with emotional self-harm and self-destructive patterns that are holding you back mentally and emotionally, then you can reach out and seek professional counseling. Click on the link below to learn more.

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I hope this article helped you understand what emotional self-harm is, why it develops, and how to stop emotional self-harm. For more, you can write to us at or DM us on social media.

You can also share your thoughts and tips with us in the comments below.

Take Care!

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.

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