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Self-harm refers to when a person hurts their own body on purpose. It is more common amongst women than men. A person who self-harms usually does not mean to kill themselves, but they are at higher risk of attempting suicide and dying by 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 do it more often and have trouble stopping.

For many people, self-harm gives them a sense of relief and is used 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.

Signs & Symptoms

Examples of self-harm include:

  • Cutting one’s skin with a sharp object
  • Piercing the skin with sharp objects
  • Hitting or punching oneself or punching things (like a wall)
  • Burning oneself with cigarettes, matches, or candles
  • Breaking bones or bruising oneself

Symptoms and warning signs of self-harm:

  • Scars
  • Wearing long sleeves or pants, even in hot weather
  • Talking about feeling worthless or helpless
  • Fresh cuts, bruises, bite marks, or burns
  • Keeping sharp objects on hand
  • Frequent reports of accidental injury
  • Emotional and behavioral instability and unpredictability

Get Help

It is possible to overcome the urge to hurt yourself. There are other ways to find relief and cope with your emotions. Self-harm treatment options can include outpatient therapy, partial-inpatient or and inpatient hospitalization. When behaviors are life-threatening or interfere with daily life, specialized self-harm programs are recommended.

Learn how to talk about mental health to help you speak to a loved one who you may think is experiencing any mental health concerns.

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Last Updated
Last Updated: 04/24/2023
Last Updated