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Warning Signs of Self Harming

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 22 Oct 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Self Harming self Harm self Harmer

Anyone could be a self harmer and because there is no accepted, stereotypical profile of a self harmer it means that knowing some of the warning signs might be the only way to deduce if someone is engaging in self harming behaviours. Watching for warning signs can be complicated, however, since self harmers typically carry out their behaviours in secret and go to long lengths to keep others from seeing evidence of their activities. If you are concerned about someone self harming, think about the warning signs below and consider seeking professional help for the person if it seems likely that a loved one could be self harming.

Warning Signs of Self Harming

Very often people think of self harming simply as cutting, or an individual literally cutting their own skin such as with a knife, razor or scissors. Unfortunately self harming includes many more behaviours as well. Poisoning, intentional overdosing, head banging, burning oneself and other acts of self injury and/or self mutilation can all come under the umbrella term of self harming. Warning signs for specific behaviours may be particular to that behaviour, though common signs may include:

  • Unexplained cuts and bruises on the body.
  • Wearing long sleeves and pants, even in warm weather.
  • Secrecy, such as keeping a specific drawer locked or hiding specific items.
  • A breakdown in typical communication.
  • Mood changes or mood swings.
  • Changes in eating patterns.
  • Changes in sleeping patterns.
  • Changes in socialising patterns.
  • Evidence of drug or medical paraphernalia.
  • Evidence of carrying unnecessary sharp objects, matches or lighters.
  • Poor performance or results at school or work.
  • Loss of interest in favourite hobbies or sports.

Risk Factors of Self Harming

A number of risk factors may also increase the likelihood of an individual engaging in self harming behaviours, particularly if these risk factors are known to others and are present in conjunction with common warning signs. Common risk factors related to self harming include:

  • A history of being bullied.
  • A history of sexual abuse.
  • A history of physical abuse.
  • A history of neglect.
  • Mental illness in the family.
  • Substance abuse in the family.
  • Depression.

Stress and Self Harming

Stress in any of its many forms may lead to or exacerbate self harming behaviours in that the individual may find self harming a means of “letting go” or coping with an increase in stress. Common stressors for young people include exams, fitting in, romantic relationships, being selected for a sports team or dramatic production, navigating independence, getting in or going to university, attempting to plan the future and/or choosing a career. Individuals who show evidence of, or fit risk factors for, self harming should be observed closely during times of high stress to ensure their own safety.

Getting Help for Self Harming

Medical and mental health professionals should all be able to provide further information on self harming and advice for specific cases. Many organisations also exist which can offer further information and support, including Childline (www.childline.org.uk), the National Self Harm Network (www.nshn.co.uk), the Samaritans (www.samaritans.org.uk) and Young Minds (www.youngminds.org.uk), a charity devoted to mental health issues as they affect young people. Many self harmers will deny that they have a problem and may well deny that they need any sort of help or treatment, so parents and other concerned adults may need to take the lead in enlisting professional support.

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I’m 13 years old and in my first year of high school (freshman year grade 9). I’m suicidal and I self harm by cutting on my wrists and thighs (mainly my wrists.) I just really don’t like myself,other people have seen my cuts and all. Some do nothing and some call people to get me help. I’ve been to 7 different councillors since my dad committed suicide when I was only 8 :( counselling did never help me unfortunately though. Winter is coming up here in Canada so I guess I’m able to wear long sleeves with approval of others but I still wanna see red. Any help would Be very needed! I really wanna cut right now :/ ~A suicidal teenager??
Makenna - 22-Oct-18 @ 5:49 AM
I have recently been self harming , I told my best friend and she talked to me , she said I should stop , I still have scars from the last time I did it , yesterday I did it again and my friend saw , they want to see tomorrow and for me to explain why I did it , I can’t talk about it because idk how I feel , I put a bandage over it because I have pe tomorrow I want to stop but I can’t
Alisha - 15-Oct-18 @ 12:06 AM
hello. I'm 15 and have been self harming since I was about 12. it has been on and off but mainly on. I used to do it as a punishment whilst battling an eating disorder which I got admitted to hospital for. ever since then I have been cutting myself as a release of the feelings inside that I can't let out. I have PE at school tomorrow and have visible cuts on my arms and legs, what do I do?
kk - 11-Sep-18 @ 3:57 PM
Am so alon I downt show no one that am sad. I don’t sleep a lot I will never for give my life my little sister past away 20 yers ago but to meit’s just like yesterday I didont get ther in time. It makes me so so sad. Wen am in bed at night I ????no one no s I dow it wen everybody zzzzz.Wot I wood give to see her one last time. To say I love you and amsorry for living you.A big. Part of me ??Went that night she past.She wos so lovely wiy did god aka her from us. We loved her. So much .wen I look at my dad. I see the pain. I lovemy dad.So much he is just. Like me. Holds it all in.So my ??I love and miss you every day night love ?? you for all way s we will. All be together one day.
?? - 27-Aug-18 @ 12:26 AM
@Leanne 75 - the objective is to get her treatment. Only wearing long sleeves will cover self-harm scars :(
JoB - 16-Jul-18 @ 9:36 AM
Hi my niece self harmed she stopped .but last night I have saw she has done it again . Lines up her arm and put fat and disappointmenton there .Which she is neither . Her uncle is getting marriedin2 wks .not sure how to cover up .
Leanne 75 - 15-Jul-18 @ 8:25 AM
Holly- Your Question:
So I am 13 and I self harm and I keep feeling like I should cut but I can’t go a hour without thinking of cutting even tho I havnt for 3 months and it’s difficult to stop can anyone help me?

Our Response:
Please see the Mind link here , which should help you with information and a contact for someone to speak to confidentially if you need.
TeenIssues - 1-Jun-18 @ 2:13 PM
So I am 13 and I self harm and I keep feeling like I shouldcut but I can’t go a hour without thinking of cutting even tho I havnt for 3 months and it’s difficult to stop can anyone help me?
Holly - 1-Jun-18 @ 7:50 AM
@Tim - I agree. I'd say get help too. I told my sister and she has been great. It was such a weight off my shoulders and my mind.
Rose - 4-May-18 @ 10:10 AM
@pi telling someone it the best thing believe me I have been cutting since I was 10 it’s been a little over 10 years I’m 20 now and me getting help was the best thing I say get help
Tim - 3-May-18 @ 2:35 PM
@pi - telling someone will help you. You must want to stop and the only way you can think about stopping is to get help and counselling regarding what is making you resort to this. It's amazing how supportive people can be. I did the same and I told my aunt and uncle, they have been great. They spoke to my mum and dad on my behalf. My mum and dad have also helped a lot and eased up on me too.
ImogenB - 24-Apr-18 @ 2:29 PM
i'm 11 and i've been cutting myself for a while now; i believe i started november 2017. usually i do this because i just hate myself, the impossibly high expectations set for me, stress, and everything in between. It's both a temporary stress-reliever and something that physically proves my self-loathing, i guess. anyhow, why i'm writing this is because one of my closer friends, i daresay best friend, is suspecting something. She's starting to notice how there are unusual cuts on my wrists and thighs (i normally cut my shoulders, hip, or somewhere else where it's not visible, but i ran out of room) when i change into shorts or a shirt that does not fully cover my arms. actually, she confronted me about it an hour ago, when she was still over at my place. of course, i denied everything, but i could tell she wasn't convinced whatsoever, though she stopped pestering me. anyway, i'm scared. i don't know what to do. i don't know how to deal with the sadness, anxiety, anger, and stress. i don't know how i'll explain things to her. i don't know if i should tell my parents; they already have enough on their plate, the last thing they need is a messed up daughter.
pi - 21-Apr-18 @ 2:07 AM
@Unknown- I understand you. But stop the spiral and get help. It's a dark place, but only if you get help can you really feel that you can come out of it. Go see your doctor or speak to someone you can trust. It really can help. You are obviously depressed too. The organisation Mind can help too. You are not alone in this. <3
Katieb - 6-Apr-18 @ 12:30 PM
I had self harmed since December 2017 and before that a bit, then a few months went by and I got back into it and it was deeper a lot deeper because I did something terrible and I had this massive guilt of it. The reason why I self harmed (and still do) is because of the physical and verbal abuse my brother puts on me, my parents are still going through a divorce (for over a year) and I've thought of running away and sometimes killing myself (but those thoughts don't last and I don't condone doing this). I tried to do other stuff like eating to try and forget about my thoughts of harming myself. I feel like I'm falling down a spiral (like last time) and I can't see the light. I hope someone who is reading this understands me.
Unknown - 4-Apr-18 @ 5:44 PM
hi im 13 and i self harmed for 2 months on and off and im scared my grandparents will find out and i dont know how to hide it but if you need to hide it try makeup
scitz 022 - 3-Apr-18 @ 7:10 PM
Maddi - Your Question:
I started self harming last friday so about 4 days ago. I don't want to keep doing it and I only do it at school under the desk with my fountain pen. I dont know what I should do if it gets bad.

Our Response:
Firstly, if you are using a fountain pen, be careful as contaminated ink can cause a skin infection to enter the bloodstream. If you feel you have a problem, then you should confide in someone about this, so that you can get help to try and overcome the habit.
TeenIssues - 15-Mar-18 @ 2:20 PM
I started self harming last friday so about 4 days ago. I don't want to keep doing it and i only do it at school under the desk with my fountain pen. I dont know what i should do if it gets bad...
Maddi - 13-Mar-18 @ 6:34 PM
@Sad - you really need to speak to someone about this, a doctor, a school teacher, as it sounds as though you are also suffering from depression. There is help for you out there. Sometimes it is difficult when you are used to living with a feeling, but talking to someone and seeking help will help you to get back to the place within yourself where you need to be.
RoseH - 23-Feb-18 @ 2:36 PM
Hi I'm 13 and I've been cutting myself for about 7 months and I've told some friends I self-harm. My guy friend mostly helped me the much because he used to do it too . It's so tempting tho .. I used to self harm because of a heartbreak .. It turned to depression and my grades at school are dropping :( I'm losing friends and contact with my family. They say I should tell my parents but I can't really because 2 months agoand still today I self harm because things aren't going well with my parents . I don't feel loved anymore , they are always asking me why I look empty . I just don't reply because I know I might burst crying because of them . My mom used to verbally abuse me and I've had enough so I still self harm..
Sad - 23-Feb-18 @ 2:56 AM
None - Your Question:
I've been really low and depressed lately I've started to self harm again and am worried as it's become in a lot lately this time the cuts are deep I used a surgical blade last time I cut through my tendents and had to have an op as I slipped with the blade I want to go the doctors but I carnt because I really have let myself go and carnt push myself I carnt cope with day to day live in at times my anxiety is become in more frequently I want help myself but I find it hard I have A'D'H'D but think its more of depression

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. If you feel you cannot go to see your GP, then speaking to someone may help, please see link here . The first step is to confide in another person whether it is someone you do not know, or someone you trust and who makes you feel accepted and supported. It could be a teacher, friend or family member or someone anonymous such as in the links provided. The Mind link here may also help you feel that you are not on your own and there are other people who are suffering from the same issues as you. You do need help and there are people out there that can help and guide you, but you need to reach out and make contact. Please let us know if you do.
TeenIssues - 21-Dec-17 @ 10:10 AM
I've been really low and depressed lately I've started to self harm again and am worried as it's become in a lot lately this time the cuts are deep I used a surgical blade last time I cut through my tendents and had to have an op as I slipped with the blade I want to go the doctors but I carnt because I really have let myself go and carnt push myself i carnt cope with day to day live in at times my anxiety is become in more frequently i want help myself but I find it hard I have A'D'H'D but think its more of depression
None - 20-Dec-17 @ 1:14 AM
Idk - Your Question:
I’m 12 and have been self harming for around 18 months now and have nearly killed myself on 2 occasionsI have been depressed for around 2 years, my parents split up but my mom abuses me verbally and my dad did physically I haven’t told anyone and recently my mom found the knife I use to cut my self with but hasn’t found out about the burning what should I do None of my teachers have found out either and I don’t plan on telling anyone.

Our Response:
You need to speak to someone about this, especially if you have nearly killed yourself as a result of self-inflicted injuries. The only way you can improve your life's situation and your state of mind is by seeking help. You can speak to someone at Mind, who will keep your conversation confidential, please see link here. Or the Samaritans can also help, if at any time you feel desperate, please see link here. Writing on this page is the first step towards help. You need to now take the next step and confide in someone directly regarding your issues. There is plenty of help out there - you just need to reach out to get it.
TeenIssues - 6-Nov-17 @ 11:19 AM
I’m 12 and have been self harming for around 18 months now and have nearly killed myself on 2 occasionsI have been depressed for around 2 years, my parents split up but my mom abuses me verbally and my dad did physically I haven’t told anyone and recently my mom found the knife I use to cut my self with but hasn’t found out about the burning what should I do None of my teachers have found out either and I don’t plan on telling anyone.
Idk - 5-Nov-17 @ 3:09 AM
Cutting... what should I do?? 13 years old
Sierra - 1-Nov-17 @ 9:41 AM
Hi i have been cutting on and off now for 3 years but they have been getting super bad now my family is falling apart and are blaming me i have lost interest in my hobbies i just go home an sleep i hardly eat anymore and i tried to hang myself couple nights ago and now have a bruise around it and iam scared incase any my teachers or family find out ps iam 16 years old
Katieee1 - 26-Oct-17 @ 2:02 PM
Nickname- Your Question:
I'm 13 I've been selfharming for 2 years on and of I started in year 7 buy cutting my wrist my mum sore it and my sisster I got upset and said I fell they never believed me so they told the school and they said they well get me help I deneyed it then 5 months later I cut my leg and since then it's a habit I stoped 1 month ago and now I started to bruiseMy self I'm scared I'll start taking drugs next please tell my what to do

Our Response:
If you feel you need help with this issue, then you need to ask for help from your school again and/or family. Talking to someone is your main priority. Once you talk to people about it, you are on the way to helping yourself solve your problem. If you feel you would rather talk to someone who is not connected to you, then you could try someone such as Childline here.
TeenIssues - 18-Sep-17 @ 1:56 PM
I'm 13 I've been selfharming for 2 years on and of I started in year 7 buy cutting my wrist my mum sore it and my sisster I got upset and said I fell they never believed me so they told the school and they said they well get me help I deneyed it then 5 months later I cut my leg and since then it's a habit I stoped 1 month ago and now I started to bruise My self I'm scared I'll start taking drugs next please tell my what to do
Nickname - 16-Sep-17 @ 7:51 AM
Shmurdysadd - Your Question:
Hey I'm 27 years old and I never really cut myself but I've taken large amouths of pills when I was younger and one time filled up s bookbag with txt books and hung it over my bed around my next. But when my dad died when I was 16 I use to take a sharp knife and nip my skin repeatedly until it welp up. My mom have been gone now for 3 years and my depression is so high it's scary. I'm dealing with a bad break up and bad living arrangements. I'm back at nipping myself with the knife again smh I have nobody to talk to and the one I thought I had just never heard me everything I do is for attention my heart is broken I'm super depressed please help me

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. It is important that you speak to others if you are feeling lonely and isolated. Your GP will help and can refer you to some counselling. Mind can help with some initial advice and guidance, please see link here . Please also see NHS link here.Talking, sharing and making yourself have the 'conversation' about your issues will definitely help you on the road to recovery. We hope you manage to sort these issues out.
TeenIssues - 14-Sep-17 @ 11:04 AM
Hey I'm 27 years old and I never really cut myself but I've taken large amouths of pills when I was younger and one time filled up s bookbag with txt books and hung it over my bed around my next . . But when my dad died when I was 16 I use to take a sharp knife and nip my skin repeatedly until it welp up . . My mom have been gone now for 3 years and my depression is so high it's scary . . I'm dealing with a bad break up and bad living arrangements. . . I'mback at nipping myself with the knife again smh I have nobody to talk to and the one I thought I had just never heard me everything I do is for attention my heart is broken I'm super depressed please help me
Shmurdysadd - 13-Sep-17 @ 7:41 AM
NBxoxo - Your Question:
I'm 13 I've cutting on and off for about 2 years I have always struggled with weight issues and feel that I'm overweight. Not long have told my friends that I've been self harming but don't know how to tell my parents I've told my friends I've stopped but it's getting to the point I'm trying to make my self sick and I need help. Do you have any advice it's not only effecting me it's effecting my results in school.

Our Response:
Do you have a school counsellor you can speak to? It is important you do speak to someone soon before any situation might spiral out of control. You can also make an appointment to see your doctor who will be able to help with your situation. Childline may also help here if you need to talk to someone directly.
TeenIssues - 12-Sep-17 @ 3:04 PM
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