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Self-Injury: Are You Hurting Yourself?

What does hurting yourself mean?

Hurting yourself, sometimes called self-injury, is when a person deliberately hurts his or her own body. Some self-injuries can leave scars that won’t go away, while others leave marks or bruises that eventually will go away. These are some forms of self-injury:

  • cutting yourself (such as using a razor blade, knife or other sharp object to cut the skin)
  • punching yourself or other objects
  • burning yourself with cigarettes, matches or candles
  • pulling out your hair
  • poking objects through body openings
  • breaking your bones or bruising yourself
  • plucking hair for hours

Why do some teens want to hurt themselves?

Many people cut themselves because it gives them a sense of relief. Some people use cutting as a means to cope with any problem. Some teens say that when they hurt themselves, they are trying to stop feeling lonely, angry, or hopeless. Some teens who hurt themselves have low self-esteem, they may feel unloved by their family and friends, and they may have an eating disorder, an alcohol or drug problem, or may have been victims of abuse.

Teens who hurt themselves often keep their feelings “bottled up” inside and have a hard time letting their feelings show. Some teens who hurt themselves say that feeling the pain provides a sense of relief from intense feelings. Cutting can relieve the tension from bottled up sadness or anxiety. Others hurt themselves in order to “feel.” Often people who hold back strong emotions can begin feeling numb, and cutting can be a way to cope with this because it causes them to feel something. Some teens also may hurt themselves because they want to fit in with others who do it.

If you are hurting yourself, PLEASE GET HELP — It is possible to overcome the urge to cut. There are other ways to find relief and cope with your emotions. Please talk to your parents, your doctor, or an adult you trust, like a teacher or religious leader. At the bottom of this page is a list of telephone numbers of organizations that can help you.

Who are the people who hurt themselves?

People who hurt themselves come from all walks of life, no matter their age, gender, race or ethnicity. About one in 100 people hurts himself or herself on purpose. More females hurt themselves than males. Teens usually hurt themselves by cutting with sharp objects.

What are the signs of self-injury:

These are some signs of self-injury:

  • cuts or scars on the arms or legs
  • hiding cuts or scars by wearing long sleeved shirts or pants, even in hot weather
  • making poor excuses about how the injuries happened

Self-injury can be dangerous — cutting can lead to infections, scars, numbness, and even hospitalization and death. People who share tools to cut themselves are at risk of getting and spreading diseases like HIV and hepatitis. Teens who continue to hurt themselves are less likely to learn how to cope with negative feelings.

WebMD Public Information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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