What is self-injury?
Self-mutilation, also called self-injury, is defined as the deliberate harming or alteration of one’s body tissue without the conscious intent to commit suicide.
Self-injury serves as an extreme coping method.
Self-injury is very different than attempting suicide. Many individuals who self-injure have described the act as life-sustaining rather than life-threatening. It is important to note that some self-injurers may die accidentally by increasing the extent of their self-injury.
Common forms of self-injury
Self-injury takes several forms. It is important to note that nearly 75% of self-injurers will use more than one method.
Common forms of self-injury include:
- Cutting skin, including carving words or symbols into the skin
- Hitting oneself
- Pulling out hair to excess
- Head banging
- Scratching to excess
- Biting oneself
- Burning oneself
- Interfering with the healing of wounds
- Breaking bones
- Chewing lips, tongue or fingers
- Mutilation of breasts or genitals
- Facial skinning
- Ingesting sharp or toxic objects
Why do people self-injure?
There are numerous reasons why people self-injure. Some of the more common reasons include:
- Seeking relief from overwhelming emotions: People who self injure have not developed the ability to feel and express emotions as others do. In many cases, they have grown up in homes where they have not been allowed to show their true feelings. The feelings exist, regardless of whether or not they are expressed. Self-injury is a rapid way for a person who is overwhelmed with emotions to experience relief.
- Physical Expression of Emotional Pain: Self-injury speaks loudly of overwhelming emotional pain. By physically expressing their pain, individuals who self-injure are given physical evidence of confusing, and intangible emotions. The wounds that are caused and the scars that remain are a vivid picture of the intense psychological suffering.
- Numbness and Dissociation: Often, individuals who self-injure are emotionally numb. By injuring themselves, they give validation to the fact that they are indeed alive and can feel pain.
Alternatives to Self-Injurious Behaviors
We found some great websites that discuss alternatives to SI. These sites are created by other Self-Injurers, including some who have stopped.