What Are the Symptoms of Self-Harm?

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  • Written By: Jackie Myers
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2018
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Since self-harm is typically hidden from others, it may be difficult to notice the symptoms and signs. Common symptoms of self-harm are scars from cuts, fresh wounds, relationship troubles, and broken bones. Those who choose to keep self-harm a secret wear long pants and sleeves, even during hot weather. Many self-injurers spend a lot of time alone and have sharp objects close by.

Indications of self-harm include finding blood stained clothing and noticing carved words or symbols on the skin. People who harm themselves may make deep cuts into their skin or pull out their hair. Experts believe that individuals who self-injure also suffer from depression. Self-mutilators go to great lengths to hide their problem from others. To hide scar marks, some self-injurers may wear several layers of bracelets around their wrists.

Some people only hurt themselves a few times and then quit. Self-mutilation, however, can become a repetitive behavior, occurring numerous times instead of once or twice. The most common areas on the body to self-harm are the legs, arms and torso because they can be easily reached and hidden under clothing.


The cause varies. Different people respond to stress in a variety of ways, and some choose to self-mutilate as a way to cope it. Experts believe that these differences in handling stress stem from biological makeup or traumatic experience at an early age. Intense feelings of anger can come from a person’s upbringing, and children with abusive parents lack role models for handling stress in a healthy way.

Experts believe that people who hurt themselves are not necessarily suicidal. Self-mutilation is, in fact, seen as the opposite of suicide. Individuals who self-harm do it to feel better throughout the day instead of trying to end their lives. The nature of self-mutilation is physically damaging to the body, however, and it is important that self-injurers immediately seek help.

Self-harm can be prevented, but it may not be possible for a person to stop on his own. Those who notice the symptoms of self-harm in others can help them by recommending counselors and support groups. Supports groups can reduce the severity and frequency of self-mutilation, and a psychologist or psychiatrist can tailor a treatment strategy to each individual.

Teens who notice symptoms of self-harm within themselves should confide in someone who can help them find better ways of coping. Guidance counselors, social workers, parents or other trusted adults can be helpful.



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