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Warning Signs of Self Harming

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 23 Feb 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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[Add a Comment]
@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
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.
NBxoxo - 11-Sep-17 @ 11:21 PM
I am 13 and i been cutting for 2yrs now and two of my teachers found out but i could talk to them but if got worse so they couldn't talk to me anymore and i was very sad and my teachers their were there for me and they were like they were my mom
Mya - 21-Aug-17 @ 6:34 AM
AmberLee - Your Question:
I'm 12 years old. A month ago I cut myself with scissors because I had very low self esteem and hated myself and never felt comfortable in my own skin. I still have these negative thoughts in my head and I don't know what to do. I feel that I am fat and that the world would be better of without me. My whole class found out and made fun of me.

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. If you have a school counsellor, then you can speak directly to him/her. If you have someone in your family you can confide in, this may help. Or there are specific helplines you can contact in addition to those listed in the article, please see link here .
TeenIssues - 17-Jul-17 @ 10:28 AM
I'm 12 years old. A month ago I cut myself with scissors because I had very low self esteem and hated myself and never felt comfortable in my own skin. I still have these negative thoughts in my head and I don't know what to do. I feel that I am fat and that the world would be better of without me. My whole class found out and made fun of me.
Amber - 14-Jul-17 @ 5:45 PM
@InvisibleGirl - when you forgive yourself and try to turn your life around, then your life will change for the better. You need to stop beating yourself up and begin to love yourself. So you've made mistakes, what human being hasn't? It would have been much worse if you had carried on being a bully, but half the battle is realising that you've been a 'douchebag' but are willing to change. But first you have to begin to like yourself again.
LauraI - 13-Jul-17 @ 12:17 PM
I'm 17, and have been self harming for 4 years now. It's an ongoing battle. I used to be a bully and everything came crashing down and basically I was exposed as the douchebag I really am.... that's when I started, as a way to punish myself. it's getting old. But I just can't stop. In times of crisis its always there for me. I just wanted to say that for all the people who have been bullied out there... I'm sorry. I'm one person who truly does deserve this pain...
InvisibleGirl - 12-Jul-17 @ 3:37 AM
Kc - Your Question:
Hi I'm 14 I have been cutting my self because my life is a mes and no one helps me I suffer with depression and I'm never happy I sit in my room and at school I have this boy I really like and I think he liked me but he has lost feelings for Me for this going I dunno why I acc botherd because I fell in love _ to hartbroken then I'm the ugly the frigit the.one who's scared to have a boyfriend I have acc never been in a realashenship because I'm scared he will think I'm ugly skinny but evryone thinks I'm this shy,little , fragile , scared pefetic I'm scared to show my true colours

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. Please see NHS link here which also tells you how and where you can seek help. You can also see more via the Childline link here . I hope this helps.
TeenIssues - 10-Jul-17 @ 10:14 AM
Hi I'm 14 I have been cutting my self because my life is a mes and no one helps me I suffer with depression and I'm never happy I sit in my room and at school I have this boy I really like and I think he liked me but he has lost feelings for Me for this going I dunno why I acc botherd because I fell in love _ to hartbroken then I'm the ugly the frigit the.one who's scared to have a boyfriend I have acc never been in a realashenship because I'm scared he will think I'm ugly skinny but evryone thinks I'm this shy,little , fragile , scared pefetic I'm scared to show my true colours
Kc - 9-Jul-17 @ 2:21 AM
@Ldot - it may do, but it's not an answer to your problems and you really should try and get this and your other issues sorted out :(
Blue** - 27-Jun-17 @ 2:28 PM
Im 18 Ive been self harming on and off for almost 4 years now, it gives me the best relief. I suffer from depression, anxiety, perfectionism, body dysmorphia and cutting seems to be my only true release.
Ldot - 26-Jun-17 @ 7:11 PM
@Abby - Yes you shoukld continue in this life. There will be plenty more boys, better and nicer ones. School will eventually end and your friends will change. All you need to do is talk to your mom about your problems and try to get her to see you are having a tough time. Talk to a school counsellor too.
Jackson - 20-Jun-17 @ 12:56 PM
Hi I am 13 years old and I have gone through a lot lately like for example I went through a lot of pressure from my mom to do good in school and also I continue getting bullied at school and also I went through a breakup with my boyfriend that I still really like so much and for those reasons I've tried to do something bad because I do not know if I should continue in this life with my ex not liking me or my moms pressure to do well in school.
Abby - 17-Jun-17 @ 9:03 PM
@Charlott - it sounds like you need to get some more information first before you make a judgement over what to do for the best. The fact you have self-harmed too may mean you can gain your sister's confidence and if both of you are self harming you should get some help or advice. Hattie.
MadHatter** - 15-Jun-17 @ 12:38 PM
I am 13 and I have concerns that my sister is self harming. She is the same age as me (we are twins) and recently fell out a lot with her friends. She has been joking about self harming; when I asked her why she had a big scratch she said she was self harming and then said she was joking, on that same day I noticed a cut on her arm that had recently been picked, again I asked her about it and she had the same response, but I pressed her for a proper answer and she said 'I don't know.' Should I be worried about this? Or should I wait and see if any more marks appear? I might go looking in her room to see if their are any bloody tissues because they are a good sign... also her cut is on her left arm and she is right handed. I'm really concerned, help! Ps I don't really want to tell my parents because I don't want to get her into trouble, also I occasionally self harm so it could be a sisterly thing too, I guess? Thanks ??
Charlott - 13-Jun-17 @ 9:07 PM
I am 15 and have been self harming. I don't understand why or why I won't get help. I have a great life and my parents blamed exams and the fact I'm a teenager but my exams are over now and I generally don't like life. I have had quite bad suicidal thoughts and wrote a note but I don't think I'll ever do it
Charlie - 5-Jun-17 @ 9:33 PM
@Aoneill 21- if you feel this way, then it is important you seek help and some support :(
Missy - 24-May-17 @ 2:30 PM
I can't stop self-harming I have been doing it for 6 year's and can't stop no friends i'm scared of life ??????
Aoneill 21 - 20-May-17 @ 1:38 AM
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Latest Comments
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