What Is a Self-Harm Syndrome?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2018
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Self-harm syndrome is a term used for people who purposely harm themselves. People who self-harm are sometimes suicidal or might accidentally commit suicide through self-harm. The techniques used to self-harm are varied, from cutting to burning or running into solid objects. Humans are not the only animals on the planet to hurt themselves; self-harm syndrome has been observed in captive animals like parrots and dogs. Self-ham syndrome is still being researched, but there have been techniques developed to deal with it without professional help.

People who self-harm are not always suicidal, but a significant amount of suicide victims have evidence of self-harm syndrome. There are many reasons why people inflict injuries upon themselves, from depression to mental health disorders. The problem is also seen in people of all ages, from young children to the elderly. It is associated with abuse of most kinds, mental health disorders, and teenagers, as it is most often observed in people around this age.

This syndrome is most often evidenced by cutting on various places of the body. Arms, legs, and genitals are not exempt from self-harm syndrome, and many people who suffer from the problem will go through great lengths to hide scars and fresh cuts. For example, wearing wristbands or long-sleeved shirts even during the summer can hide cuts on the arms, wrists, or hands. Burns, bruises, and bald spots on the head from the hair being ripped out can also be evidence of a self-harm syndrome.


Both wild and domesticated animals in captivity can show symptoms of self-harm syndrome. For example, parrots sometimes develop a habit of plucking out all feathers within their reach. Dogs can lick their legs until they are raw and bleeding because of obsessive compulsive disorders or even boredom. In dogs, the problem is often observed in large breeds left alone for periods of time they are not used to. In addition, captive bears have sometimes thrown themselves against cage bars until they die or lose consciousness.

Research suggests that simply keeping busy can help reduce the amount of self-harm a person does. Being around friends, taking a walk or jog, or engaging in other day-to-day healthy activities can also help a person avoid self-injury. In addition, he or she can develop other habits, like snapping a rubber band against the wrist, that hurt but do not cause injury. The success of an avoidance technique depends a lot on why the person is harming himself or herself in the first place.



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