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Warning Signs of Self Harming

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 14 Jul 2017 | 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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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
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
JennyJelly - Your Question:
Ever since I was little I would scratch until I bleed, sometime it was because I was scared or nervous but mostly I'd just do it without thinking. My family just ignored it thinking it would just disappear when I grew up, but it still do it and I'm 16 now. I would scratch when I'm anger, sad, alone, depressed and even when I sleep. I don't always realise that I'm doing it but am I just depressed or do I have a real physiological problem?

Our Response:
You don't have a physiological problem, but if this has been occuring since your childhood, you do have an issue that you personally may wish to deal with and/or try to stop. Talking to your parents, school counsellor or your GP may help you further.
TeenIssues - 19-May-17 @ 11:00 AM
Ever since I was little I would scratch until I bleed, sometime it was because I was scared or nervous but mostly I'd just do it without thinking. My family just ignored it thinking it would just disappear when I grew up, but it still do it and I'm 16 now. I would scratch when I'm anger, sad, alone, depressed and even when I sleep. I don't always realise that I'm doing it but am I just depressed or do I have a real physiological problem?
JennyJelly - 18-May-17 @ 5:57 PM
I just started self harming with a razor, but I'm afraid it will become worst. I don't know if I even have depression, but i really dislike my body and constantly bad mouth myself. What could be the reason if I don't know if I'm even depressed. I'm 13 fyi
Sadie - 6-May-17 @ 2:00 AM
Frannie- Your Question:
I started self harming when I was 13/14. I started doing it with a pin, then it became a pair of compasses. Then it became the blade in a sharpener. I stopped cutting myself last year around summer, when my parents caught me and my 'depression went down'. I have started and I don't really know all the reasons. I am stressed and I have next to no friends. I wonder if I could talk to someone online, or even if it would be worth it to talk to someone.

Our Response:
CASS Women’s Self-Injury Helpline is for women of any age and background affected by self-injury, whether their own or that of a friend or family member, please see link here. Also, Childline may help, please see link here. It is important to ensure you deal with this issue as soon as you can as this will benefit your recovery long term.
TeenIssues - 2-May-17 @ 2:56 PM
I started self harming when I was 13/14. I started doing it with a pin, then it became a pair of compasses. Then it became the blade in a sharpener. I stopped cutting myself last year around summer, when my parents caught me and my 'depression went down'. I have started and I don't really know all the reasons. I am stressed and I have next to no friends. I wonder if I could talk to someone online, or even if it would be worth it to talk to someone.
Frannie - 2-May-17 @ 1:30 PM
I'm 11 and I self harm but my teachers know about my life and everything wrong with me should I tell them I self harm? But I hate saying that I do that's the thing
Millie - 30-Apr-17 @ 10:39 PM
I am 17 I relapsed in the beginning of the year after being clean for a year... I cut on my foot and my hip but recently my boyfriend noticed the cuts ... I don't know what to do please help
Taypezz - 6-Apr-17 @ 3:18 PM
dobby - Your Question:
My doctor said I cant go near scisors or sharpeners should I tell my teachers or just leave it

Our Response:
If your doctor has advised you do not go near sharp implements and it is in your best interests not to do so, then it is worthwhile informing your teachers.
TeenIssues - 13-Mar-17 @ 12:57 PM
my doctor said i cant go near scisors or sharpeners should i tell my teachers or just leave it
dobby - 12-Mar-17 @ 5:02 PM
When I'm stressed or annoyed I would scratch my self until it goes red and numb. Is this self harm ?
Jane - 6-Mar-17 @ 8:03 PM
Hi guys. I was a self harmer. I started at 14 and I turn 24 next month. I stopped about 4 years ago but I am here to say be strong. You don't want to get to my age and have scars, but none of that negativity that made you cause them. Imagine what you are feeling right now as a cloud. And it will pass, and you will be so thankful you didn't give up. Be strong x
Hayhay - 15-Feb-17 @ 1:03 AM
Holly - Your Question:
I'm only 11 but I always pick my scabs until I bleed and sometimes just make scabs on purpose so that I can pick them because it makes me feel rather in control of at least something. I have scabs on my arms and on my chest and on the top of my head, but my hair hides it. I'm feeling very stressed at the moment, is it because of this and am I actually self-harming or as my friends say it doing it because I'm bored

Our Response:
Regardless of the reasons why you or your friends think you are self harming, you should really talk to a professional who will help you to better understand your reasons and help you to try to stop. You can see about skin picking via the Anxiety UK link here . Stress can very much be a contributory factor, please see the Young Minds link here.Therefore, you may wish to speak to your school's counsellor, your GP, or a teacher, or your parents - all of who will be able to help you further.
TeenIssues - 14-Feb-17 @ 11:00 AM
Emily "Chara" Dreemu - Your Question:
I went a really long time without cutting, then I used the blade of a pair of scissors to cut myself, I also have depression. Who should I talk to, and what can I do to prevent future cutting episodes?

Our Response:
Do you have a school's counsellor? Or your teacher/doctor will help you. Anyone in authority will do their best to guide you and/or point you in the right direction regarding helping you to resolve this issue.
TeenIssues - 13-Feb-17 @ 10:39 AM
I'm only 11 but I always pick my scabs until I bleed and sometimes just make scabs on purpose so that I can pick them because it makes me feel rather in control of at least something. I have scabs on my arms and on my chest and on the top of my head, but my hair hides it. I'm feeling very stressed at the moment, is it because of this and am I actually self-harming or as my friends say it doing it because I'm bored
Holly - 13-Feb-17 @ 9:36 AM
I went a really long time without cutting, then I used the blade of a pair of scissors to cut myself, I also have depression. Who should I talk to, and what can I do to prevent future cutting episodes?
Emily "Chara" Dreemu - 12-Feb-17 @ 4:13 AM
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