Self-Injury 101

The following information comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

self-injuryWhat does hurting yourself mean?

Hurting yourself, sometimes called self-injury, is when a person deliberately hurts his or her own body. Some self-injuries can leave scars that won’t go away, while others leave marks or bruises that eventually will go away. These are some forms of self-injury:

  • 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

Why do some teens want to hurt themselves?

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. Some teens who hurt themselves have low self-esteem, they may feel unloved by their family and friends, and they may have an eating disorder, an alcohol or drug problem, or may have been victims of abuse.

Teens who hurt themselves often keep their feelings “bottled up” inside and have a hard time letting their feelings show. Some teens who hurt themselves say that feeling the pain provides a sense of relief from intense feelings. Cutting can relieve the tension from bottled up sadness or anxiety. Others hurt themselves in order to “feel.” Often people who hold back strong emotions can begin feeling numb, and cutting can be a way to cope with this because it causes them to feel something. Some teens also may hurt themselves because they want to fit in with others who do it.

If you are hurting yourself, PLEASE GET HELP — It is possible to overcome the urge to cut. There are other ways to find relief and cope with your emotions. Please talk to your parents, your doctor, or an adult you trust, like a teacher or religious leader.

Who are the people who hurt themselves?

People who hurt themselves come from all walks of life, no matter their age, gender, race, or ethnicity. About 1 in 100 people hurts himself or herself on purpose. More females hurt themselves than males. Teens usually hurt themselves by cutting with sharp objects.

What are the signs of self-injury?

These are some signs of self-injury:

  • Cuts or scars on the arms or legs that you can see
  • Hiding cuts or scars by wearing long-sleeved shirts or pants, even in hot weather
  • Making poor excuses about how the injuries happened

Self-injury can be dangerous. Cutting can lead to infections, scars, numbness, and even hospitalization or death. People who share tools to cut themselves are at risk of getting and spreading diseases like HIV and hepatitis. Teens who continue to hurt themselves are less likely to learn how to cope with negative feelings.

Are you or a friend depressed, angry, or having a hard time coping with life?

If you are thinking about hurting yourself, PLEASE ASK FOR HELP! Talk with an adult you trust, like a teacher, minister, or doctor. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Everyone needs help sometimes. You have a right to be strong, safe, and happy!

Do you have a friend who hurts herself or himself?

Please try to get your friend to talk to a trusted adult. Your friend may need professional counseling and treatment. Help is available. Counselors can teach positive ways to cope with problems without turning to self-injury. If your friend won’t talk to a trusted adult, you should tell an adult you trust about the situation.

Have you been pressured to cut yourself by others who do it?

If so, think about how much you value that friendship or relationship. Do you really want a friend who wants you to hurt yourself, cause you pain and put you in danger? Try to hang out with other friends who don’t pressure you in this way.