Self-injury, also known as cutting or self-mutilation, occurs when someone intentionally and repeatedly harms herself/himself. The method most often used is cutting but other common behaviors include burning, punching, hair pulling, scab picking, and drinking something harmful, like bleach or detergent.

Who Does It?

It is estimated that about two million people in the U.S. injure themselves in some way.  The majority are teenagers or young adults with young women outnumbering young men. They are of all races and backgrounds.


 What is it?

  • Self injury is an attempt to express emotional pain, anger, or frustration that cannot be put into words.

  • Self injury acts as a way to take control when  feeling out of control.

  • Self injury is an attempt to get through a painful emotional state of mind. It is not uncommon for self injuring teenagers to flirt with the idea of suicide. Never assume that the act of self injury is not an attempt of suicide.  This can lead to lethal results.

  • Many teenagers who self injure explain how physical pain is easier to deal with rather than emotional pain.

  • Self injury often provides a release, bringing the teenager"s mood back to a state of homeostasis--much like popping a balloon.       

  • Self injury is often viewed as a form of punishment that is deserved. 

  • Self injury can be an impulsive reaction to difficult emotions and a means of escaping them causing a   trance like state resulting in cutting their body too many times to remember. The opposite can also be true when self injury becomes a way to "snap out of it" and bringing the state of consciousness back to awareness.  

  • Self injury externalizes emotional pain while  providing concrete evidence that the pain is real.


- Wearing long sleeves/long pants regardless of season. 

- Refusal to wear sleeveless or short sleeves tops, shorts, bathing suits.

 - Refusal to go swimming.

 - Avoiding exposure of certain body parts or demanding privacy when getting undressed

 - Wearing wrist warmers or wrist bands to cover the wrist.

 - Wearing gloves that have fingers cut off, or wearing socks on hand that has holes for fingers, thus covering the entire hand, wrist, and forearm.

 - Wearing inches of bracelets that cover wrists and refusal to remove them.

- Putting "thumb-holes" in sweatshirts so hands and arms remain covered.

- Carrying around or hiding knives, scissors, razors, box cutters, shards of glass, safety pins, tacks, or needles in bedroom, backpack, clothing,  or shoes. 

- Frequent accidents.

- Cuts that are parallel in a shape, design, pattern, or words

- Finding blood on towels, bedsheets, used tissues in trash cans.

- Wearing a large razor blade around the neck as a necklace.

- Frequent bruises, scratches, cuts, burns, broken bones or bandages followed by flimsy excuses like: "A cat scratched me," "I was climbing a fence,"  "I was making jello," or "I fell off a mountain".