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10 Ways People Self-Harm, Self-Injure

People use various ways to self-injure. Ways to self-harm include cutting, burning, hitting and many others. Learn the 10 most common ways to self-mutilate.

The ways to self-harm are numerous. Self-harm, also known as self-injury or self-mutilation, is a coping mechanism used by a surprising number of people. Self-harm includes the stereotypical cutting of oneself but also goes far beyond that to any action a person can use to purposefully harm oneself. Ways to self-injure are most-commonly inflicted on the arms, hands and wrists of the individual but other body parts, such as the thighs or the stomach, are also commonly reported as self-mutilation sites.

Eating disorders and addiction behaviors are not typically considered methods of self-harm, but in some cases they may be if the intent of their use is specifically to cause harm to the body.

Top Ten Ways to Self-Harm, Self-Injure

A study published in 2006, Self-injurious Behaviors in a College Population, by Whitlock et al., looked at the self-injurious behavior of over 2800 college students. Seventeen percent of the respondents reported self-injurious behavior. According to that study, the ten most common ways to self-harm were:1

  1. Scratching or pinching – this behavior included severely scratching or pinching with fingernails or objects to the point that bleeding occurred or marks remained on the skin. This method of self-injury was seen in more than half of all students who reported participating in self-harm. (Watch interview on Dermatillomania: The Secret of Compulsive Skin Picking)
  2. Impact with objects – this self-harm behavior included banging or punching objects to the point of bruising or bleeding. This way to self-harm was seen in just over 37% of the self-harming students.
  3. Cutting – while cutting is often considered synonymous with self-harm, this way of self-mutilation only occurred in just over 1-in-3 students who reported self-harming. Cutting is more common among females.
  4. Impact with oneself – this self-injury method includes banging or punching oneself to the point of bruising or bleeding. This way to self-injure was seen in almost 25% of the students who reported self-harming behaviors.
  5. Ripped skin – this way of self-mutilation includes ripping or tearing skin. This type of self-injury was seen in just under 16% of those who admitted to self-harming behaviors.
  6. Carving – this way of self-harm is when a person carves words or symbols into the skin. This is separate from cutting. This method of self-mutilation was identified by just under 15% of those who self-harm.
  7. Interfering with healing – this way of self-mutilation is often in combination with other types of self-harm. In this case, a person purposefully hampers the healing of wounds. This method of self-harm was used by 13.5% of respondents.
  8. Burning – burning skin is a way of self-mutilation. Burning as a way of self-injury was seen in 12.9% of students who self-harmed.
  9. Rubbing objects into the skin – this type of self-harm involves the rubbing of sharp objects, such as glass, into the skin. Twelve percent of responding students used this way to self-harm.
  10. Hair-pulling – this way to self-harm is medically known as trichotillomania. In trichotillomania, a person feels compelled to pull out their own hair and in some cases even ingest that hair. This type to self-injury was seen in 11% of students who self-harmed.

One thing to note, 70% of those who repeatedly self-harm use multiple ways to self-harm with the majority reporting between 2-4 self-injury methods used.

You can discover more self injury, self harm statistics and facts here. Information on the effects of self-injury is here. And if you're looking for self-injury help and support, check this out. If you're a parent with a child who self-injures, find out why pro self-injury websites are so dangerous.

Finally, if you're wanting to gain some insight into why you self-harm or what triggers your self-injury behaviors, take this self-injury test.

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next: Self Injury, Self Mutilation Warning Signs and Symptoms
~ all articles on self-injury
~ all articles on abuse

Last Updated: 26 August 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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