This study investigates 122 people's descriptions of their self-harm experiences using thematic analysis. Analysis revealed four themes: What counts as self-harm, What leads to self-harm, Intentions and Managing stigma. Our participants challenged commonly accepted understandings in terms of method, outcome and intentions. Several difficulties associated with discriminating between suicidal and non-suicidal self-harm were highlighted, which may be important in clinical practice. Few participants mentioned diagnosed psychiatric disorders; they best understood self-harm through their social experiences. Focusing on social understandings of self-harm may help reduce associated stigma and barriers to help-seeking.