Self-injury

Written by L.N. Cordero, MA
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Self-injury is the deliberate harm of one’s own body during periods of high emotional tension or stress which damages tissue or leaves marks that last for more than five minutes.

Also termed self-mutilation, self-harm, parasuicidal behavior, self-injurious behavior and self-inflicted violence, self-injury is a maladaptive mechanism used to cope with overwhelming emotions. In clinical settings, self-injury is a symptom most often seen among female teens or young adults, however self-injurious behavior is not limited to this population. Self-injurious behavior is also seen in males and crosses racial, ethnic and age demographics. Some researchers estimate that 1% of all Americans participate in self-mutilating behaviors.

Types of Self-Injurious Behavior

Self-Injury can take many forms. The most common form is cutting. A self-injurer will scratch with fingernails or cut with sharp objects such as knives, razor blades, or pins their legs, arms and/or torsos. More often than not, the self-injurer will select a location on their body which is easily hidden with clothing. Other forms of self-injury include burning oneself with hot objects or fire, friction burning oneself with an object such as an eraser, pulling one’s hair, hitting oneself with an object such as a hammer, head-banging, intentional breaking of bones, picking at one’s skin or scabs, drinking harmful chemicals and repeated tattooing or body piercing done for stress relief.

Seek Help for Self-Injury

Self-injury is a dangerous coping mechanism that should not be taken lightly. While the self-injurer's intent is not suicide, accidents happen which may lead to death. Other unintentional results may also occur. Wounds may become infected. Brain damage and other internal injuries can be the non-fatal result of drinking harmful chemicals, hitting, head-banging and breaking bones. Most self-injury also leads to permanent physical scarring. If you or someone you know is suffering from self-injury, it is important to seek professional help immediately from a health care worker, counselor or pastor.


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