Home > Self Harming > Warning Signs of Self Harming

Warning Signs of Self Harming

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 25 May 2023 | 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.

Website Design, Illustration, Hosting and SEO

If you are looking to increase brand awareness, generate web enquiries and/or generate online sales In Studio Digital will create an affordable, mobile friendly, secure website - check out In Studio Digital.

Based in the UK, skilled in WordPress, web design, ecommerce and illustration, they will build your site quickly, host it on a high performance server, and make it SEO friendly. Prices start at £399.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Hey I’m Chynna and I’m 12 And I started Self harm when I was 9. I started cause I was fat shamed, and bullied cause of my hair and how I put it up and stuff . I started to think that if I use scissors what will it do. So I tried it on my skin and I cut too deep. My arm was bleeding heavily. So I took a shower and put a bandage on it my parents wondered why I took 2 showers and I said I had soap in my hair still, then I never cut myself for 1 years or more, but I started again when I got pushed into a wall at school cause of how I dressed and by how I wore glasses just for style and when I got home I started cutting again. I stopped for another 3 to 4 weeks then it was November 20 a day after my dog died and I just couldn’t keep my thoughts together cause I just didn’t know what to do, so I took a glass and broke it, I used it for a cutting device, then I told my friends about how I did it and one of their moms found out and called my school. So later that day my dad and mom sat me down at the table wondering what has been going on so I just replied “nothing” so my dad said pull up my sleeve so i did and I had a bunch of band aids on my wrists so my dad took them off and what he saw was EVERYTHING I did to my wrists so later on that month my parents thought it was best if I went to the hospital, so I did and now I’m out of the hospital and I’m home it’s May 25 I’m still doing $h and I won’t stop till I die Please I don’t recommend doing $h or drvg$ like I did and I’m only 12 so please stay safe love y’all????????
Chynna - 25-May-23 @ 10:19 PM
Hi... I'm in year 7 and I self-harm. I've tried self-harming a year before now, with sharp plastic, however, I stopped doing that for a bit, and when I entered year 7, I felt alot of stress and began to self-harm again. Now, I use the blade of scissors to cut my wrists and hands, then cover the cuts up with gloves. I want help but I can't, if my parents know, god knows what they'll react like. If I tell any teachers, they'll ring my parents. If I tell my sister, she'll start to panic and hurt herself, which I do not want. I do not have my phone nor a tablet, only this 3DS XL
Turtle - 11-Oct-20 @ 7:06 AM
Hey Im in year 6 I’m 11 I cut my self I want to die
Payton - 29-Jul-20 @ 11:22 AM
I’ve seen your comments and it’s inspired me too tell you guys my story. I’m Lili I’m 13 years old and I’ve never had the courage to sled harm. I’ve done it once and it felt so good. I nearly got caught so I didn’t do it again. I’ve been mentally abused from a young age and I’m being called a “crybaby” by my own family. We don’t have the best financial life so that makes it hard too. My dad left us when I was 3. Ten years later and now he’s starting to act like he actually cares. I’ve thought that my life was hard but now that I’ve seen your comments you’ve given me hope. Thank you ??
Lili - 8-Jun-20 @ 9:30 PM
hi i am millie i am 13 i have been self harming since i was 7 because in school i was bullied fat shamed and i have tied to kill myself 2 times 1 just a few weeks ago and 1 lest yaer i am still getting bullied and it has gotten worse i just want to say keep going guys you are worthit you wrer made for a reason and you young ones like me do not know what those reasns are yet so you need to be alive to see what you were bought into this world so keep fighting pls
millie - 25-May-20 @ 4:00 AM
I’m sadly 12 years of age and started cutting last year. I cut on my arms stomach and legs. I can never control myself when I do it and always immediately regret it after. I almost never cry about the pain anymore but sometimes I get extremely emotionaland cut deep. I get around 2 hours of sleep each night if that. No one knows and I don’t want anyone to know but I can’t keep doing this to myself. My scars are horrible and make me ashamed. I really want to talk to someone.
Sky - 15-May-20 @ 4:26 PM
Hi, my name is Jas. I’m in 6th grade and I’m 11 years old. Just about 3 weeks ago, I started cutting. I’ve been wanting to do so for ages but I never found the courage to do so. That changed 3 weeks ago. My story started off in 2nd grade. Lets just say I had this bullying issue. It was the same routine everyday. Wake up, get ready for school, get on the bus, get my hair roots ripped out, arrive at school, continue through the school day, get back on the bus, get my hair roots ripped out again, and cry when I get home. I got bullied and I don’t know what I did to deserve it, I was just there, not drawing much attention, just reading or making little conversation. Every time I even tried to breathe, the girl sitting behind me on the bus had to pull my hair and tell me to shut up. I would just do as she says hoping that one day, it would stop. Eventually, it did. Not because she had a change of heart, but because I moved. Summer in between 2nd and 3rd grade, I moved and started over with my life. I became the happiest, nicest, most innocent, little girl anyone (including myself) ever knew. I would always cheer people up, help them out, and just guide people through their issues. I wasclueless about everything but I was just the “peacekeeper” as people addressed me back then. It felt really good to do things to make others feel happy. This continued on until 5th grade. In 5th grade. I met this girl. We were great friends, we’d do everything together. However, she changed me a lot, instead of the victim, I became the bully. At the time this happened, I thought it was so cool to just make fun of people with my best friend. May I remind you, I never wanted this, of course I wanted to be friends but I never thought I would be yelling at people to stay back. It was kind of like a peer pressure thing. I do what she does, follow in her footsteps, and nothing would happen. If I didn’t listen to her, I would risk getting kicked in the face or choked to the point where I couldn’t breathe anymore. I though nothing of it at first because I thought she was just messing. That time where she killed my fish, I thought she was messing. That time when she pushed me into a creek, I thought she was messing. That time where she pushed me off her balcony, I thought she was messing. It was until one day where she was absent from school. She gave me the excuse that she was sick, but knowing she had depression, I didn’t buy any of it. Once I got home, I decided to text her in a group chat saying that I knew she wasn’t sick (because she never gets sick). After that, she just went bonkers. She was saying “Everything that I do, you have to go and do better! It’s not fair!” (Original quote) I tried to calm her down but nothing worked, she just kept getting more angry. I decided to leave the group and after that, I cried for hours. The next day at school, we weren’t exactly on the best terms. She made me cry during lunch and everyone was there to see. Luckily, everyone was on m
Jt_.ly - 26-Mar-20 @ 11:58 PM
so ive been self harming for some time now. my mom found out and i told herni was getting bullied but the real thing is, is that i was malested when i was 6 at camp and when i was 13 visting family. i have really bad ptsd, ive attemted suicide 3 times, and im addicted to opids pain killers, my friend was on the phone with me once for 6 hours and she talked me out of it. she was the best. also me and this now a 9 th grade lost a good friend to suicide and its harm. im verble abuse and i cant talk to people alot becuse of trust issues and anxity. im turning 16 in a couple of weeks and i feel like i shouldent be here any mor expesally when i se the scars, cuts, burns all over me. only ting kepping me here is 3 close friend , my ex bsf, my ex, me dog
emma - 4-Feb-20 @ 11:11 AM
I’m Dalia I’m 13 I’ve been meaning to cut myself for a long time or take a bunch of pills and kill my self but I just can’t bring myself to do it and I don’t know what I do I usually just scratch myself with things or cut on an old cut just to feel myself hurting for some reasonI really don’t know what to do and I don’t want to tell my mom because I don’t want to get her worried or feel like it’s her fault but I really need help and I don’t know who to turn to because no one will understand and they’ll just say I want attention and the silly comments people always tell me they hurt but I’m too scared to say anything I need help who do I turn to
dalia - 12-Dec-19 @ 12:20 PM
i started when i was 12 in my 6th grade year i did it about a dozen times then lead to my friend finding out. for months i had the urge to do it, but i didn’t. Then came to my 8th grade year, where i am now i’m on my 4th month of doing it, i don’t do deep, i do small on my upper thighs. yes, i have scars but i’m to ashamed to look at them. when i do cut, i’m never in the right mindset, feeling guilt after i do it, wonder how much disappointment my mom would feel. yet i know she would help.three nights ago i was almost 11 days clean. two nights ago i cut 21 times here i am now my thigh aching and wondering if i should tell and adult. or idk. my friend found out because i told her when i was clean. at least i though i still would be. but it has gotton so addictive idk what to do. Help?¿
kat - 7-Dec-19 @ 3:58 AM
My name is Georgia and I am 15, I started cutting start of last year and every time I get so emotional I just take it out on myself every time. I know it’s bad but it’s so hard to stay happy..I attempted suicide once and my parents never knew about it..I want to talk to someone but I am so scared to tell somebody because I’m afraid of everything that could happen with me telling someone. My cuts are sometimes so deep I can never sleep.
Georgia - 27-Sep-19 @ 4:44 PM
I’m 15 years old and I have hated myself for a long time. I don’t cut but I self harm in other ways that aren’t so obvious. Like I scratch all the time to the point where I can draw blood. I never dress for the weather which is a way of punishing myself. I go days without eating. I put everyone’s needs above mine and I isolate myself. I don’tphysically self harm, but it still has the same effects. And I don’t know how to stop, but it hurts so bad.
Nevaeh - 10-Sep-19 @ 11:47 PM
So, I've only been cutting for like 3 weeks. In the start, it was a few cuts I could easily hide, but over the last month, it's just gotten worse... I have someone on the internet(My boyfriend who is far away), who helps me, or at least tries. Should I tell someone? I kind of want to tell one of my best friends, he's been asking me randomly(And as a joke) if I was depressed. I don't know how to tell him, and I don't know where. I can't stand the thought of him telling the teacher, and the teacher telling my mom... I want to tell my mom by myself, it'll most definitely be in months, though. I love him so much and trust him enough to tell him, but I just have to find the confidence to do so...
Tjana2007 - 17-May-19 @ 1:44 AM
i started self-harmingat 12 i stopped for 4 months and then i turned 13 and all those teenage hormones came and as a kid if something happened i didnt know what happened but know that i realize how mess up twisted life i have i have happy moments i have fun moments, i get on my phone and look at memes and laugh so hard and then it just turns into you dont deserve to live, go cut, GO CUT! and then i do i cut my thighs cause i cant afford long sleeves to cover up my wrist, im homeschooled so that means i have alot of time, and i spent those times crying day til night, and ive attepted suicide but didnt take enough pills and wake up, ive helped people stop self harming and committing suicide but i do/did those things, im such a hypocrite, i dont want any bs about people care about you or just stop but i cant its satisfying to cut my flesh, and some of the kids in the neborhod know about and they make fun of me but i know better i laugh cause atleast i know im making someone have fun and see the battle going on and think of me and i know only to win the battle but im losing and if i lose and retreat I KNOW THAT IM COMING BACK 10 TIMES STRONGER!
GoodFeeling| | || | - 14-Apr-19 @ 12:20 AM
Hi! Im Ryan Not sure if this comment is allowed but ive seen a lot of unanswered questions and comments regarding young teens self harming and I want to help. Im 17 and I used to self harm. I started when i was 12-13 and I want to help some of you who are there and are confused, hurting and/or want to stop. It only gets worse if you don't do anything now! And this is coming from personal experience. My instagram is @cdstyyyfd and my snapchat is @rebecca.awesome (cringey name, i know). I would prefer you contact a professional but if you are unable, then i am here to listen if you need to vent.
BumblebeeRyan - 4-Apr-19 @ 10:25 PM
I have only very recently started self harming but my friends have being doing it for a while.The reason i started was because of my friends and because im having a hard time at home. i really want to stop but every time i say im going the temptation to do it again takes over me.It has knocked my self esteem and every time i look at my cuts i feel ashamed of myself which make me do it again. Do you have any advice on how to stop or how to tell family members because i really really need want to stop. Thanks :)
SelfHarmSucks - 14-Jan-19 @ 2:03 PM
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
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Prezzy
    Re: Coping With Strict Parents
    Guys im 15 living with African parents ( Nigerian's to be precise) my dad took me and all my siblings mobile phone including my 19…
    29 June 2024
  • mari
    Re: Coping With Strict Parents
    My mom , she always have rules in my life . I am 17 and this year gonna be 18 . My mom all the time taking my phone, checking my…
    18 March 2024
  • help
    Re: Coping With Strict Parents
    I'm already 17 and I'm in love with an 18yo girl with acute depression. But when my parents found out, they want me to stop my…
    6 February 2024
  • help
    Re: Coping With Strict Parents
    I'm already 17 and I'm in love to an 18yo girl with acute depression. When my parents found out, they are forcing me to stop all my…
    6 February 2024
  • Ariana Grande
    Re: Coping with a Jealous Friend
    The friends i keep are mostly male friends, because guys don't easily get jealous. My female friends always envy my life; for…
    27 January 2024
  • shallot
    Re: Coping With Strict Parents
    Yo guys, Im 10 and I just had an argument with my mom, now she won’t help me with my drawing homework and my other writing…
    17 January 2024
  • Emre
    Re: Beauty Tips for Boys
    9 January 2024
  • Leana
    Re: Coping With Strict Parents
    So basically im 17 years old when i was 13 years i used to talk with a male who is 22 years! Because of my daddy issues ive gotten…
    15 December 2023
    Re: Beauty Tips for Boys
    6 December 2023
  • was
    Re: Steroids
    where i can buy
    28 November 2023