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What? Non-suicidal self-injury is the deliberate, self-inflicted destruction of any part of the body resulting in immediate damage, without suicidal intent and for the purpose of inflicting harm. Although most people think of cutting and carving when they talk about self-injury, there are other ways people hurt themselves, like scratching, burning, banging head or punching objects to break bones, embedding things in the skin, biting, pulling out hair, holding breath.

People frequently self-injure on areas of the body such as hands, arms, stomach and thighs and their injuries may be visible or hidden.

Why? For people who don’t self-injure, it can be very confusing to understand why a person would hurt themselves. Why cause pain intentionally? There are many reasons… there are just a few- sometimes the person who self-injures doesn’t know why they do it. To feel in control of their body or mind, to create a “rush” or to feel good, to cope with negative feelings or feelings of anxiety, to distract themselves, to relieve stress or pressure, to express their feelings, to cope with previous trauma, to punish themselves.


Some common misconceptions about self-injury…

It's a suicide attempt

For people who don’t understand self-injury, it can seem like suicidal behavior. However, people who self-injure are using it to cope, not to die. Even though it is unhealthy; it is a way they have learned to get by. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not dangerous. The level of severity in an injury can vary, and injuries can range from superficial and shallow injury that will heal, to significant and permanent scarring damage; they may even cause injuries that unintentionally lead to death.

They are dangerous

Nope, most people who self-injure do so privately to avoid questions or concern. They are often turning their negative feelings of anger, frustration and sadness inward through their self-injury.

It's a girl thing

Not true- in fact a study through Cornell University found that 30-40% of self-injurers are male.

It's a goth or emo thing

Again, this is wrong. Self-injury does not discriminate and the people who engage in it can be from any group, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or economic status. They can look or act in any way, and, people who self-injure often function just fine in their daily life, like in school, activities and jobs.

It’s just an attempt for attention

Well, maybe it is- and if so, it is a person who is asking for help and should be supported.

And most of the time it isn’t- meaning that most people who self-injure make every attempt to hide their injuries from others. But they are still in distress and need a better way to cope.

It’s untreatable

Because it is used as a coping mechanism and can be addictive, people sometimes get the impression that it’s impossible to stop. Not true! Many people who self-injure are able to stop through therapy and the use of better, healthier coping skills.

Check out the TeenCentral Tools page for some helpful resources, including a Support Plan, and some healthy coping skill ideas like the Positive Self Talk tool or the Yoga Poses instructional!