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
Journal ArticlesReferences and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Alternative Therapies for Excoriation (Skin Picking) Disorder: A Brief Update.
- Article: Self-Inflicted Lesions in Dermatology: A Management and TherapeuticApproach - A...
- Article: Nonsuicidal self-injury among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender populations: an...
- Self-harm -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
- Behavioral Health and Substance Abuse Treatment Services Locator (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
- National Institute of Mental Health
- Psychologist Locator (American Psychological Association)
- Cutting and Self-Harm (Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health)