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Self Harm

Self-mutilation is a rare circumstance where someone intentionally harms himself or herself, but does not wish to die. This is different than a suicide attempt where someone harms himself or herself and wants to die. The motivations for self-harm vary; however, many times, self-mutilation is an attempt to manage emotional pain and relieve powerful or overwhelming feelings, which may seem unmanageable at the time. Estimates maintain that about 1 percent of people engage in self-mutilation. Among people who harm themselves, the behavior occurs most frequently among adolescents and young adults, with females being two to three times more likely to self-mutilate than males.

Self-mutilation can take many forms, and occur for a variety of reasons. A person may not necessarily be aware of the reasons why they hurt themselves; however, the emotional distress is frequently linked to difficulty managing feelings in relationships with others.

Examples of self-mutilation include the following:

  • Superficial cutting or scratching
  • Burning
  • Hitting or bruising one self
  • Pulling out hair
  • Head banging

People who harm themselves may be secretive about the behavior, and may experience strong negative feelings about themselves. Guilt, shame, self-criticism, and social isolation can be intensified for someone who self-mutilates and a cycle of emotional pain and self-damaging behavior can evolve into a way of coping.

More information about self-mutilation can be found by following the links below.


Mind is the leading mental health charity in England and Wales. They claim to work to create a better life for everyone with experience of mental distress. This is more of a self-help page oriented for the non-professional.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

This page is maintained by the AACAP and is oriented for both parents and adolescents. It is a very brief explanation of the issue of self-mutilation and options for intervention. It includes links to other pages on their site.