Types of Self-Injury

Self-injury — otherwise known as deliberate self-harm (DSH) or non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) — is more common than one might think.

sistatAccording to the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery, 12% to 24% of young people have self-injured and 6%-8% of adolescents and young adults report current, chronic self-injury. As the Homeschoolers Anonymous series on self-injury demonstrates, homeschool communities are not immune to self-injury.

Self-injury is normally used to describe behaviors involving intentional infliction of harm to one’s body without intention of suicide. (Socially recognized body modifications like piercings and tattoos are not considered self-injury.) A 2006 study from Cornell University reports the most common behaviors include, but are not limited to:

  1. Scratching or pinching – this behavior included severely scratching or pinching with fingernails or objects to the point that bleeding occurred or marks remained on the skin. This method of self-injury was seen in more than half of all students who reported participating in self-harm.
  2. Impact with objects – this self-harm behavior included banging or punching objects to the point of bruising or bleeding. This way to self-harm was seen in just over 37% of the self-harming students.
  3. Cutting – while cutting is often considered synonymous with self-harm, this way of self-mutilation only occurred in just over 1-in-3 students who reported self-harming. Cutting is more common among females.
  4. Impact with oneself – this self-injury method includes banging or punching oneself to the point of bruising or bleeding. This way to self-injure was seen in almost 25% of the students who reported self-harming behaviors.
  5. Ripped skin – this way of self-mutilation includes ripping or tearing skin. This type of self-injury was seen in just under 16% of those who admitted to self-harming behaviors.
  6. Carving – this way of self-harm is when a person carves words or symbols into the skin. This is separate from cutting. This method of self-mutilation was identified by just under 15% of those who self-harm.
  7. Interfering with healing – this way of self-mutilation is often in combination with other types of self-harm. In this case, a person purposefully hampers the healing of wounds. This method of self-harm was used by 13.5% of respondents.
  8. Burning – burning skin is a way of self-mutilation. Burning as a way of self-injury was seen in 12.9% of students who self-harmed.
  9. Rubbing objects into the skin – this type of self-harm involves the rubbing of sharp objects, such as glass, into the skin. Twelve percent of responding students used this way to self-harm.
  10. Hair-pulling – this way to self-harm is medically known as trichotillomania. In trichotillomania, a person feels compelled to pull out their own hair and in some cases even ingest that hair. This type to self-injury was seen in 11% of students who self-harmed.

For more information about #10, hair-pulling or trichotillomania, see the Trichotillomania Learning Center.

It is important to note that the majority of people who self-injure use more than one method to self-harm. It is also important to note that, according to the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery, “Research suggests that being a member of a sexual minority group is a risk factor for self-injury. At least two studies have shown that reporting oneself as bisexual is a particularly strong risk factor for self-injury – especially among females.”