The Truth About Self-Injury

» Posted by on Sep 20, 2016 in Alpha Blog | 0 comments

The Truth About Self-Injury

What is self-injury?

Self-injury refers to a behavior that is not socially sanctioned where one purposefully harms themselves without suicidal intent. Common methods of self-injury include:

  • Cutting/scratching
  • Burning
  • Pulling out hair
  • Biting self
  • Self-bruising (through hitting objects with the intent to cause harm to self or hitting oneself with the intent to cause harm)

Self-injury may be best understood as a maladaptive coping skill as it can allow the person to feel something rather than nothing, or as a means to cope with intense emotional distress


Why do people self-injure?

Although each person is different and may have different reasons for self-injuring, research shows that the most common reasons are

  1. Emotion Regulation

-To help regulate or stabilize emotions


  1. Anti-Numbness

-To help end numbness a person may feel and bring back some sort of emotion or “rush” they receive from self-injuring


  1. Anti-Suicide

-As a method to satisfy the urge to kill themselves without actually ending their own life


  1. Self-Punishment

-Many who self-injure to punish themselves do so because they feel as though they are bad or worthless, and that they “deserve it”

It is a myth that all people who self-injure are “doing it for attention”. Research shows that the majority of those who self-injure tend to be very secretive about it and go to great lengths to hide their self-injury from others. However, for some, self-injury truly is an attention-seeking act –  but this does not mean that it should be ignored. If someone is self-injuring as a means to get attention, then they likely need attention – and their intent at connecting and communicating with others through this behavior should be recognized.


Who self-injures?

Self-injury is becoming increasingly recognized among youth and adolescent populations, although the behavior exists within adult populations as well. It is a myth that only females self-injure – studies show that of those who self-injure, 30-40% of them are male.

Other factors that may contribute to self-injury include:

  • Childhood abuse or trauma (especially child sexual abuse)
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

There is help out there

If you or someone you know struggles with self-injury, call to speak with one of our skilled therapists today. There is help out there.



Author: Elisabeth Saucedo, MSW Student Intern at Alpha Counseling and Treatment


Whitlock, J. (2010). What is self-injury? [Fact sheet] Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious Behavior in Adolescents and Young Adults. Retrieved from

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