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Cutting and self-harm

An ambulence at a hospital.Self-harm, sometimes called self-injury, is when a person purposely hurts his or her own body. There are many types of self-injury, and cutting is one type that you may have heard about. If you are hurting yourself, you can learn to stop. Make sure you talk to an adult you trust, and keep reading to learn more. You can also watch a video about what one girl does to stop self-harming.

What are ways people hurt themselves? arrow. top

Some types of injury leave permanent scars or cause serious health problems, sometimes even death. These are some forms of self-injury:

  • Cutting yourself (such as using a razorblade, knife, or other sharp object)
  • Punching yourself or punching things (like a wall)
  • Burning yourself with cigarettes, matches, or candles
  • Pulling out your hair
  • Poking objects into body openings
  • Breaking your bones or bruising yourself
  • Poisoning yourself

The dangers of self-injury

Some teens think self-injury is not a big deal, but it is. Self-injury comes with many risks. For example, cutting can lead to infections, scars, and even death. Sharing tools for cutting puts a person at risk of diseases like HIV and hepatitis. Also, once you start self-injuring, it may be hard to stop. And teens who keep hurting themselves are less likely to learn how to deal with their feelings in healthy ways.

Who hurts themselves? arrow. top

People from all different kinds of backgrounds hurt themselves. Among teens, girls may be more likely to do it than boys.

People of all ages hurt themselves, too, but self-injury most often starts in the teen years.

People who hurt themselves sometimes have other problems like depression, eating disorders, or drug or alcohol abuse.

Why do some teens hurt themselves? arrow. top

Some teens who hurt themselves keep their feelings bottled up inside. The physical pain then offers a sense of relief, like the feelings are getting out. Some people who hold back strong emotions begin to feel like they have no emotions, and the injury helps them at least feel something.

Some teens say that when they hurt themselves, they are trying to stop feeling painful emotions, like rage, loneliness, or hopelessness. They may injure to distract themselves from the emotional pain. Or they may be trying to feel some sense of control over what they feel.

If you are depressed, angry, or having a hard time coping, talk with an adult you trust. You also can contact a helpline. Remember, you have a right to be safe and happy!

If you are hurting yourself, please get help. It is possible to get past the urge to hurt yourself. There are other ways to deal with your feelings. You can talk to your parents, your doctor, or another trusted adult, like a teacher or religious leader. Therapy can help you find healthy ways to handle problems. You can read more about ways to stop cutting. You also can watch a video about how one girl helps herself not self-harm.

What are signs of self-injury in others? arrow. top

  • Having cuts, bruises, or scars
  • Wearing long sleeves or pants even in hot weather
  • Making excuses about injuries
  • Having sharp objects around for no clear reason

How can I help a friend who is self-injuring? arrow. top

If you think a friend may be hurting herself, try to get your friend to talk to a trusted adult. Your friend may need professional help. A therapist can suggest ways to cope with problems without turning to self-injury. If your friend won't get help, you should talk to an adult. This is too much for you to handle alone.

What if someone pressures me to hurt myself? arrow. top

If someone pressures you to hurt yourself, think about whether you really want a friend who tries to cause you pain. Try to hang out with other people who don't treat you this way. Try to hang out with people who make you feel good about yourself.


Content last reviewed January 07, 2015
Page last updated February 12, 2015