Self-harm refers to a person's harming their own body on purpose. About 1 in 100 people hurts himself or herself in this way. More females hurt themselves than males. A person who self-harms usually does not mean to kill himself or herself. But they are at higher risk of attempting suicide if they do not get help.

Self-harm tends to begin in teen or early adult years. Some people may engage in self-harm a few times and then stop. Others engage in it more often and have trouble stopping.

Examples of self-harm include

  • Cutting yourself (such as using a razor blade, knife, or other sharp object to cut the skin)
  • Punching yourself or punching things (like a wall)
  • Burning yourself with cigarettes, matches, or candles
  • Pulling out your hair
  • Poking objects through body openings
  • Breaking your bones or bruising yourself

Many people cut themselves because it gives them a sense of relief. Some people use cutting as a means to cope with a problem. Some teens say that when they hurt themselves, they are trying to stop feeling lonely, angry, or hopeless.

It is possible to overcome the urge to hurt yourself. There are other ways to find relief and cope with your emotions. Counseling may help.

Dept. of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health

Symptoms of Self-harm

The following features are indicative of Self-harm:
  • scars
  • fresh cuts
  • scratches
  • bruises
  • wounds
  • burns
  • behavioral and emotional instability
  • impulsivity
It is possible that Self-harm shows no physical symptoms and still is present in a patient.

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Common Causes of Self-harm

The following are the most common causes of Self-harm:
  • psychological pain
  • feelings of worthlessness, loneliness, panic, anger, guilt, rejection, self-hatred or confused sexuality
  • anxiety
  • depression

Risk Factors for Self-harm

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Self-harm:
  • young age
  • traumatic events
  • life issues
  • personality disorder
  • depression
  • anxiety disorders
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • eating disorders
  • excessive alcohol use

Prevention of Self-harm

Yes, it may be possible to prevent Self-harm. Prevention may be possible by doing the following:
  • offering help to people at risk
  • encouraging expansion of social networks
  • raising awareness about self-injury
  • educating about media influence

Occurrence of Self-harm

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Self-harm cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Common between 1 - 10 Million cases

Common Age Group

Self-harm can occur at any age.

Common Gender

Self-harm can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Self-harm

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Self-harm:
  • Psychological tests: To evaluate physical and mental health

Doctor for Diagnosis of Self-harm

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of Self-harm:
  • Psychiatrist

Complications of Self-harm if untreated

Yes, Self-harm causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Self-harm is left untreated:
  • worsening feelings of shame, guilt and low self-esteem
  • infection due to cuts
  • permanent scars
  • disfigurement
  • fatal injury
  • worsening of underlying issues and disorders

Procedures for Treatment of Self-harm

The following procedures are used to treat Self-harm:
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): To identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, positive ones
  • Dialectical behavior therapy: To teach behavioral skills to help tolerate distress, manage or regulate emotions, and improve relationships with others
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy: To identify past experiences

Self-care for Self-harm

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Self-harm:
  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs: Helps to make good decisions
  • Appropriate care of wounds: Helps reducing risks of infectious diseases
  • Regular exercise: Helps to relax mind and body
  • Eat healthy food: Helps maintaining health

Alternative Medicine for Treatment of Self-harm

The following alternate medicine and therapies are known to help in the treatment or management of Self-harm:
  • Dance therapy: Help balance emotions and improve sense of well-being
  • Music therapy: Helps relaxing mind and body

Patient Support for Treatment of Self-harm

The following actions may help Self-harm patients:
  • Friends and family support: Share experiences with trusted family members or friends helps to cope with mental health
  • Support groups: Talking to people who've gone through the same condition helps coping with situation
  • Education: Learning more about self-injury can help understand why it occurs

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for Self-harm.
Child Behavior Disorders
Teen Mental Health

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