What is Self-Harm?
Self-harm is defined as the “deliberate and voluntary physical self-injury that is not life threatening and is without any conscious suicidal intent” (Kilburn pg.1). While, there are various terms that can be used interchangeably such as “self-mutilation or self-injury,” (Kilburn) when focusing on this intent. They all refer to the same topic. Self-harm is often used as a coping skill to deal with clinical mental disorders such anorexia nervosa, depression, borderline personality disorder and more.
This coping skill delivers relief with feelings that can be overwhelming. Self-harm is a method to alleviate feelings that have manifested from the mental illness. Additionally, self-harmers are more likely to take part in considering suicide than those that have not self-harmed. Both males and females take part in this activity, although “given different gender roles and socialization patterns” (Kilburn pg. 2) we can acknowledge that males and females self-harm for different reasons.
How do they feel?
Females and males may have varied emotions that they are seeking relief from by self-harming. “More boys reported self-harming to communicate with others or out of boredom, whereas a higher percentage of girls reported despair as a motivating factor, endorsing factors such as self-hatred, self-punishment, depression, loneliness, and denationalization” (Kilburn pg. 4)
Studies have shown that individuals that use this coping skill are dealing with anger within themselves, and may show signs of an antisocial behavior. (Kilburn pg.3) The emotions that these individuals are dealing with in research have shown that they feel self-conscious and negative towards themselves. Further emotions were reported that those individuals felt alone and bored (Kilburn pg.4). As self-harm is becoming more prevalent in young adults, it is important to find healthy coping methods to use instead.
- Exercising (Jumping Jacks, Running, etc.)
- Squeezing ice
- Drawing on body parts with red ink or where they want to injure
- Putting stickers on where they want to injure
- Playing loud music and have a dance party
- Cut or rip apart a piece of paper or cloth
- Use a pillow and use it against the wall
- Punch a punching bag
- Cleaning (bathroom, kitchen, etc.)
- Stomp around in heavy shoes, or jump around in them
- Find a favorite pet and rub them
- Take a cold bath
- Watch a favorite movie or TV show
- Focus on breathing exercises or meditation
- Listen to soothing music
- Writing out feelings
- Keeping a journal
- Writing on oneself
- Asking questions about what they hope to get out of self-harm
- Make a list about the positive aspects about themselves
- Reach out to a friend or family member to talk
- Hobbies (playing an instrument, baking, etc.)
- List the many uses of a specific object
- Take photos
- List goals to get involved in the community
- Feel it out, and the emotions that they are having
Opening Up Communication
Kilburn, E., & Whitlock, J. (2009). Distraction Techniques and Alternative Coping Strategies.
Retrieved June 2, 2017, from
Laye-Gindhu, A., & Schonert-Reichi, K. A. (2005). Nonsuicidal Self-Harm Among Community
Adolescents: Understanding the “Whats” and “Whys” of Self-Harm. Journal of Youth
and Adolescence, 34(5), 447-457. doi: 10.1007/s10964-005-7262-z