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Effects of Self-Harm, Self-Injury

The effects of self-harm are both physical and psychological. Read about the positive and negative effects of self-mutilation.

The effects of self-harm, also known as self-injury and self-mutilation, are varied and are both physical and psychological. While the physical effects of self-injury might be obvious and harmful, the psychological effects of self-mutilation are no less damaging. People are often devastatingly tormented by both their self-harming behaviors and their desire to self-harm.

The effects of self-injury are not all bad though, and this is why some people continue to self-mutilate. Some of the positive effects of self-harm might be:1

  • Expression of difficult feelings
  • Communicating that you need help
  • Release of pain and tension
  • A sense of control
  • Distraction from overwhelming, painful emotions or circumstances
  • Feeling alive or feeling something rather than feeling numb

The positive effects of self-harm, though, are temporary and are outweighed by the physical and psychological damage caused by self-mutilation.

Physical Effects of Self-Harm

The physical effects of self-harm can be minor, such as a scratch or small bruise or, in rare cases, life-threatening. No matter how severe though, all physical effects of self-injury indicate the unmanageable pain the person is in and the severity of the injury does not indicate the severity of the pain. Most people who self-mutilate do so more than once, so any physical effect of self-mutilation seen may indicate a worrisome behavioral pattern. (Here are the signs of self-injury, self-mutilation.)

Some of the physical effects of self-harm and signs of self-injury include:2

Psychological Effects of Self-Injury

Just because you can't see the harmful psychological effects of self-mutilation doesn't mean they aren't happening. Not only do strong emotions tend to drive people to self-harm, the self-harm itself, in turn, may cause strong emotional reactions. And, unfortunately, self-harm is a temporary measure that not only creates problems but also doesn't solve the problems that drove the person to self-harm in the first place.

Some of the psychological effects of self-injury include:

  • Irritability
  • A desire to be alone in order to self-harm or to hide the evidence of self-harm. This often leads to feelings of loneliness.
  • Shame and guilt at having self-harmed
  • The stress and difficulty of having to lie to those around you about the self-injury
  • Using self-injury to deal with any emotional stress instead of building positive coping techniques
  • An overwhelming desire to self-injure to the point where it feels like you can no longer control the behavior
  • Low self-esteem and self-hatred
  • Depression

article references



next: Self-Harm and Suicide: Can Self-Injury Lead to Suicide?
~ all articles on self-injury
~ all articles on abuse

Last Updated: 27 August 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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