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When Self-Harm Is for Attention

February 28, 2018 Kayla Chang

Kayla Chang, author of the blog "Speaking Out About Self-Injury," talks about the stereotype of self-harm as attention-seeking behavior, and the partial truth that exists within this stereotype.

You see this stigma of self-harm for attention played out in TV shows, movies, and often even in real life: A person engages in self-harm. This behavior is noticed by another person, either because the self-harmer has confessed or wears visible scars. People debate among themselves about whether this self-harming behavior warrants confronting the person and/or seeking professional help for the person. Then, as if on cue, someone suggests they forget about the whole thing, and says something along the lines of, "She's just self-harming for the attention."

The Stigma of Self-Harm for Attention

Within the context of self-harm, the word "attention" in the phrase "doing it for the attention" has a very specific connotation. "Attention" here implies theatrics. It implies a measure of deception. It implies something mewing and pathetic. To put it simply, there is always an unspoken qualifier attached in front of the word "attention" in these sorts of statements: "undeserved" (as in "undeserved attention").

It could be that this notion of self-harm behavior as an obnoxious form of attention-seeking comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of what self-harm actually is and the psychological function it serves. It could from the stereotype of the self-harmer as a troubled teenage girl dealing with the angst of her prepubescent years in typical melodramatic fashion. Maybe it comes from the frequent conflation of self-harm with suicidality, through the lens of which a person could conclude that self-harm is a deliberately unsuccessful quasi-suicide attempt orchestrated for no other reason than to pull people into its spectacle of near-tragedy. Whichever way you look at it, this stereotype is shaped by preconceived notions founded either on an overly reductive understanding of self-harm or on flat-out falsehoods.

Reframing the Stereotype of the Self-Harmer as Attention-Seeking

If this stereotype is, as I just stated, founded almost exclusively on partial or whole falsehoods, it stands to reason that the stereotype is, indeed, false. However, this is not necessarily the case. What I am proposing here is not that the stereotype is perfectly untrue, but that there is another way — a different way — of understanding the stereotype so that it more accurately reflects the truth.

In my understanding, self-harm functions primarily as a maladaptive coping mechanism. People use a wide variety of coping mechanisms — e.g., exercising, watching TV, meditation and so on — to deal with life's stressors. These coping mechanisms often go unnoticed, and for good reason: they are not maladaptive. It is when a person begins using maladaptive coping mechanisms that those around them begin to notice — e.g., excessive drinking or drug use, overspending, gambling addiction and so on. In these cases, it is appropriate to pay attention to the person, because the person's behavior is suggesting that something is wrong. It is the same case with self-harm.

When someone self-harms, it is sometimes (secondarily) for attention. What the self-harm is saying is, "Something is wrong, and I need help, but I don't know how to ask for it."

This attention-seeking self-harm should be understood for what it is: not as a childish expression of inflated ego, but as a beacon signal for sympathy, safety, and support.

APA Reference
Chang, K. (2018, February 28). When Self-Harm Is for Attention, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, December 4 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2018/02/when-self-harm-is-for-attention



Author: Kayla Chang

You can find Kayla on Google+.

mila
November, 24 2022 at 5:19 am

a few years ago, i really struggled with cutting and suicide attempts. lately i’ve been looking back on the whole situation, and i’m just trying to understand why i did that to myself. i definitely remember times where i got upset and in the moment turned to cutting to cope with those feelings, or times where i was so overwhelmed that i just wanted to stop feeling the way i felt completely. but now i’m also concerned that i really was “doing it for attention” like some of my friends/family once said in the past. i’ve tried searching “cutting for attention” online several times, hoping to find some explanation for why i would do that, but nothing really explains why people do it “for attention”. i definitely had and still have extremely troubled relationships with my parents, best friends, and boyfriend. i think it’s possible that at the time i felt i was lacking affection and care (“attention”) from them. honestly i still feel lonely today but i just don’t cut/self harm anymore, i just kind of suck it up. anyway, when i was searching for an answer, i read your post and i liked how you changed the meaning of “cutting for attention”. because now that i’ve been reflecting, i think that i was “cutting for attention” sometimes. because if i’m being honest, i kind of liked how people told me they loved and cared for me and would always there if i needed them. but i also feel guilty because i know that in the past i actually really was hurting badly on the inside, and it wasn’t just some dramatic “hey let’s throw a pity party. everyone look at me” type of thing. i think i was lacking a lot of “attention”, like love, empathy, and care from my relationships. in some way, i guess i’m also embarrassed now, that back then i secretly liked the way people cared for me when i was in a bad place and hurting myself. so i guess my point in writing this is to ask for your opinion. i know you don’t know my entire situation in depth, but do you think this made sense? or do you have any additional thoughts? also, i’m in therapy and i like it a lot. i just haven’t gotten around to asking my therapist about this but i’m planning on it soon

Casper
November, 14 2022 at 12:35 pm

Hii! I read a little bit of some peoples stories and I wanted to share and I want to ask people if they think I am doing it for attention. I started self harming when I was 9 aprox and at those times I was really insecure. I would carve writing into my legs and I would count days on my thighs and I would later on show them to my friends. I know I was attention seeking. Later on, I stopped showing them off. My cuts arent that deep, they scar, bleed, leave bumps but I have never gotten any stitches. I now self harm but a lot less and I excuse my scars and scratches as cat scratches and people believe me. I also have this hobby of digging my fingers skin, toes, lips. I also periodically scratch myself if I feel nervous. When people pity me, I feel disgusted and I want to puke, I hate people who do that and when my school psychologist did that I ended up yelling at her. I always feel like there is something missing in me and that I need something so badly and I have to get it right now but I cant dig it up. I also feel like my body and my soul are different things and I’m just an temporary one use thing for my body. I periodically see my body in my head and it sometimes speaks to me. (It doesnt have a face). I also tend to overthink and maybe I feel lonely. I feel like I am not there and like if I die, my body will just continue as normal (the person with no face) and I would just be away. I realized I hate everything to do with touching people and giving emotion to people and overall the thought pf having to deal with love seems disgusting. I dont know how to support people or how to be supported and I always feel so away from the world and I just like creating my own world in my music. I hate it. I dont hate myself, I just dont recognize ‘my’ body. What do I do? I feel like I am attention seeking trying to make my problems seem as something much. I feel like this is just puberty and I will get over it but I also feel like there is something seriously wrong with me but when I think that I just feel like I am more of an attention seeker. Please share your opinions if I am attention seeking or anything else!

November, 22 2022 at 11:40 am

Hi Casper,
First, I want to applaud you for reaching out and trying to get some support here. It's a good response to what sounds like a stressful situation to be in.
However, while I understand why you're asking whether your actions are attention-seeking or not—I used to ask myself this a lot, too—I think the bigger concern here is that you are self-harming. Regardless of whether it has anything at all to do with seeking attention (which, by the way, is actually pretty natural behavior when you're in distress), the fact is that if you're self-harming, something is wrong.
To be clear, I'm not saying that something is wrong with you intrinsically—rather, I'm saying you're going through something difficult that needs to be addressed. Self-harm is not uncommon, especially among people going through puberty—but it's not a normal or healthy response to puberty, either. Think of it as a red flag—it's your body and mind signaling that you have deeper issues you need to address.
I would strongly suggest reaching out to a therapist or other health provider if at all possible; such a person would be best equipped to help you sort through your motivations for self-harm, as well as your best options for recovery. Keep in mind that there are online options now too, if getting to a physical office would be difficult; keep in mind, too, that many telehealth and online services offer sliding scales, reduced rates, and other options if affordability is an issue. You could also join a support group, if that feels more accessible. If not, even just talking to a trusted friend or loved one—someone who knows you personally and who will be supportive—could make a big difference.
If you absolutely can't reach out to anyone at this time, you can still try some things on your own. Here are some posts that might help:
https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2022/1/recovering-from-self…
https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2021/9/finding-self-harm-he…
https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2021/4/self-harm-psychology…
I hope that helps. If you have more questions or concerns you'd like to share, feel free to reply here or elsewhere on the blog. I'll be around.
Take care,
Kim

Hailey
November, 11 2022 at 10:51 pm

Hi it’s hailey I was just wondering how to cover up old scars. I struggle with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. My dad isn’t one hundred percent supportive. He takes me to a counselors session every few weeks, but in the time between tells me how it’s my fault I’m like this and how I need to stop doing this stuff for attention. Little does he know that I use scar cream. I am only asking about the old scars because they are too deep for scar cream to conceal and fake tan isn’t concealing them either. I want to cover them because every time my dad sees them he tells me how stupid I am for cutting and how ignorant it was of me to feel that I’m not loved when I’m constantly getting reminders from his actions, words, school, anywhere that I go that I am not truly cared about by anyone or loved.

November, 22 2022 at 11:30 am

Hi Hailey,
I'm sorry to hear about your struggles and that you feel unsupported by your dad. It's not easy when someone in your life, especially someone so central to your life, doesn't understand and makes things worse (even if unintentionally). I'd like to believe that he thinks he's helping you with "tough love," but of course, I don't know that for sure. Have you spoken with your counselor about this issue? A neutral third party like your counselor could be an ideal person to mediate between you and your father—or at the very least, they should be able to help you communicate your needs to him, if possible, or cope with his lack of support if not.
As for covering your scars, I completely understand your reasons why you would. I've written a few posts about this that might help:
https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2021/7/self-harm-scar-cover…
https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2022/3/hiding-self-harm-sca…
I hope you find some helpful ideas there. Let me know if you have more questions or concerns you'd like to share; I'll be reading.
Sincerely,
Kim

Alana
October, 17 2022 at 4:18 pm

Hi im alana and I'm 15, from the UK. So today I cut my wrists very deeply.. I am grounded and I asked my mum to go out before I lose my crap and she said no and I said please because I'm feeling so angry and stressed and upset and she said go feel like that in your room then so I did :) and then I cut myself then walked out with blood pouring down my arm! I went to my boyfriend, he was worrying trying to comfort me etc. She kept demanding me on and she threatened to call the police on ME and they'd probably section me! I went home obviously, cause of that threat, then I spent some downtime. Tried to speak to my mum about it but she said how I'm apparently attention seeking cutting myself then walking out. Not gonna lie, that hurt when she said that. I feel stupid and guilty and I got nothing to look forward to anymore. Idek if its me anymore.

October, 26 2022 at 3:04 pm

Hi Alana,
Thank you for reaching out. I'm so sorry to hear about what you've been through; your situation sounds like a very difficult and stressful one to be in, and it sounds like your mother's reactions may not exactly be helping you cope. It's good that you feel like you can talk to your boyfriend; having even one person like that whom you can go to when things get rough is invaluable. Is there possibly anyone else you can talk to about this—someone with a little more authority, who can maybe mediate between you and your mother to help her understand what you're going through (and help you communicate more effectively with her about it)? This might be another parent or family member, or perhaps a doctor or counselor at your school.
Severe self-injury like what you've described can be dangerous, even fatal, and I wouldn't want things to escalate more than it seems like they already have. Please, if you feel like that again, try to stop and reach out to someone instead, whether that's your boyfriend or someone else or even just a hotline you can call in the moment until you're a little calmer. Our resources page has some websites and phone numbers you might want to save for future reference:
https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-refer…
Finally, for whatever it's worth, as a fellow (ex) self-harmer and human being, I just want to say that there's nothing stupid about self-harm. It's not healthy, but it's also not a good reason for you or anyone else to think less of you. That being said, I do hope you're able to connect with people and coping methods that can help you get through this and, ultimately, get better. And I'll be here if you want to reach out again here or elsewhere on the blog.
Sincerely,
Kim

Mani
September, 26 2022 at 9:52 am

I have been cutting for a long time, I've even had stitches and I often throw up on purpose sometimes because I can't taste the food I am eating and sometimes just a habit, recently I can't look at my reflection without feeling nauseous. I know it all points to a bit of depression I guess but I remember and I still do feel like I do because I want attention. It's really sickening, I'll go to great lengths to hide it but I still want people to find out. I wish I could stop wanting the attention. Sorry English is my third language.

October, 10 2022 at 6:11 pm

Hi Mani,
Thank you for your comment. Don't worry about your English; you write very well. I'm sorry to hear that you've been struggling and hurting yourself; it's not an easy situation to be in. I absolutely understand about being conflicted and both wanting to hide your scars and wanting to be found out; know that this is not uncommon and you are not alone in these feelings, nor do I think they are disgusting. It's understandable to want to hide your scars and avoid the potential negative consequences you may fear will result from sharing them—just as it's understandable to want someone to find you out, because then they might be able to help you in ways that they can't when they don't know what's going on.
If you haven't yet, I would strongly urge you to reach out for professional support if you can. It sounds like you have quite a lot on your plate, and a therapist or counselor could help you work out exactly what's going on and the best way for you to cope. I'm not sure where you are in the world, but we have a resources page with some websites you can check out and hotlines you may be able to call that can help you connect with the right mental health professionals:
https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-refer…
I say this as someone who spent far too long trying to heal by myself before reaching out for help. Alternatively, if you can't or simply aren't ready to take this step at this time, I hope you can find someone you know personally (a trusted friend or family member) you can talk to about at least some of what you're going through. It can make such a huge difference just having someone in your corner who knows what's up and can help you get what you need to cope in healthier ways.
If you have any further comments, questions, etc., please don't hesitate to reply here or comment elsewhere on the blog. I'll be reading. Just remember, whatever you decide to do next—you are not alone.
Sincerely,
Kim

Hanna
June, 15 2022 at 6:54 am

I’m a girl, and just turned 15 a few weeks ago. I live in Japan and attend to a Japanese school. I’m bilingual.
I’ve never cut myself, but recently I have been hurting myself to calm down. I get really anxious and sometimes have panic attacks due to my terrible procrastination of school work. Recently, I found out that feeling physical pain will soothe the psychological pain (I think this is because the brain can only process one type of pain at a time. I’m not sure though.)
First I was clenching my fists and digging my nails into my hand, but I started to feel it wasn’t enough. I then resolved to stabbing (rather pushing down on) the back of my hand with the tip of my mechanical pensil/ball point pen. It doesn’t bleed, it just leaves pink bumps for a couple of hours. Today, I got bad test results and stabbed myself again. I needed to push down harder to calm down. The red marks are still visible even after 8 hours. I know that this way of dealing with stress is unhealthy and my harm will only escalate as time passes, but knowing so and taking action to stop it is a different matter.
Another thing, a friend noticed my said marks today, and was worried. I brushed it off, but I felt happy that she was. I thought that maybe more people will feel concerned for me if my injuries get worse. I thought of cutting myself. I realized how toxic and damaging my thought-process was, but that doesn’t change my temptation to cut myself and seek more attention. I took out a razor and placed it on my wrist, but couldn’t make myself to do it. I still find myself considering it now. ‘Just a small cut? Just a small bandage on the wrist? Will that make people help me?’ is how i feel.
I’m clearly craving empathy and attention. I’m more of the funny one(?) in the friend group so I have a habit of expressing my pain while smiling (“I’m so stressed lately haha”). Making it seem like it’s not a big deal. I think maybe that’s why i cant ask for help, but instead hurt myself and wait for people to reach out to me. Also, I don’t think my friends are used to “comforting” people. For example, i told the same friend today that I stayed up till 5am out of self hate last night(true story). She just laughed nervously. I know my friends care about me, it’s just hard for me to be the one to always pat them on the back and hug them. I feel like I’m doing what I want to be done to me, to them. But they don’t do it back(they’re unconscious of it). I don’t feel comfortable with the idea of sitting my friends and/or family down and talking about how bad I feel. I hardly cry, too. I’m sort of bottling up my emotions, but at the same time, i do act depressed when I am. I don’t get straight forward comfort from anyone, though. I dream of seeing a therapist and talking about my psychology, but i don't want to tell my mother about any of these things.
I searched up “i hurt myself for attention”(this is how i found this page) to maybe find examples of people like me, but only articles about ‘how self harm is NOT attention seeking’ came up. I read about ‘real’ self harm, and in my case, it’s definitely not cutting my self to “release the stress” or anything like that. I just want people to notice me.
I recently DID break down crying in the nurses office, but they kept telling me that “I worked too hard too much”. I cried because I CAN’T work hard from my procrastination. Not because i can. I think this is a different thing from the craving attention problem, though.
Sorry the writing is bad. I just wrote the sentences down as I thought of them. I tried to be 100% honest with my feelings, even if they are selfish. Writing this now, I finally realize how concerning my condition is. I don’t have any questions really, just “got any advice for me?” “What should I do?”
Thank you.

June, 27 2022 at 3:39 pm

Hi Hanna,
First of all, no need to apologize. I understood your comment perfectly, and I appreciate your candidness and willingness to reach out for help, even if (for now) only online, to a stranger on a blog. It's a good sign, that you are looking for information and for help. That's always the first step in the healing process. :)
Keep in mind that I am not a medical professional, myself, but I do have personal experience with self-harming, so I'll tell you what I can from a personal, not professional, point of view.
Regarding whether your self harm is "attention-seeking" or "real"—I want to start by pointing out that these are not mutually exclusive. If you are hurting yourself, on purpose, to cope with something, that IS "real" self-harm. It can be tempting to minimize your own struggle by saying it's not real or doesn't count, but believe me, it does. As for the part where you feel you may be seeking out attention from others—this is pretty common, from what I've seen, and I've felt it to some extent myself. There were days when a part of me hoped someone would call me out on my wounds and recognize them for what they were, even when the rest of me was terrified of that same outcome. I also didn't feel comfortable telling anyone about it, yet there were days (and especially nights) that I longed more than anything for someone to understand me, to empathize with me.
I'm not familiar with what it's like to live in Japan (I've lived in the U.S. all my life), so I'm not sure exactly what options are open to you, but is it possible at all for you to see someone without your parents' permission or help? I think it would be better to do this with your parents' help than without, if at all possible, but everyone's family situation is different, and I won't presume to know how your parents will react. If you truly don't think they would be able to be supportive of your recovery, that's up to you to judge. In the U.S. our schools sometimes offer free counseling; is there anything like that where you live? Or is there a way you could call a mental health hotline without your family knowing? If not, is there someone else in your family that you trust enough to talk with about this?
Normally I would ask about your friends as well, but it sounds like your friends may not be fully understanding of your situation. Again, that's something only you can judge. But I do hope there is someone in your life you can bring yourself to reach out to; being fifteen, I imagine it would be a big help to have an adult on your side to help connect you with professional mental health services. But if not, try and do some digging on your own if you can—even an anonymous online support group would be a step in the right direction (just be sure to avoid any that ask for money or billing information; support groups should be free).
If you truly feel none of these options are available to you at this time, know that there are some steps you can take on your own to start feeling better as well. I do think it's better to get help—the more, the merrier—but I went through recovery on my own for almost a decade, so it's not impossible. And it's certainly better than doing nothing at all. Much of the content on this blog includes some advice around this; if you're looking for something specific, let me know and I can point you to the right posts to start with. For now, here's a nice hub page with lots of general info about self-harm and recovery:
https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/self-injury/self-injury-homepage
Know that it is not selfish to want help when you're feeling low. It's perfectly natural. While self-harming isn't a healthy way to cope with feeling lost, depressed, or alone, it's not an uncommon one. The best thing you can do for yourself is to seek out that help you crave, however you can. If you have more questions, need help finding resources, or just need to talk more, feel free to reply again here or elsewhere on the blog. I can't always reply right away, but I will as soon as I can.
Please don't forget, no matter how low you feel—you're not alone.
Sincerely,
Kim

Hanna
June, 29 2022 at 3:57 am

Thank you so much for replying and caring.
Since I posted my original comment, I have reached out to my online friend which I am very close to. Being that they also used to struggle with self harm, their words really made me feel better. I did not know that just having someone acknowledge your situation can give so much comfort.
Yes, my school has free counseling, and I have already taken an hour! I am starting to gain hope for my future. Writing my comment on your article made me become conscious of my situation and gave me the chance to analyze my feelings. Thank you.

July, 18 2022 at 11:55 am

Hi Hanna,
I'm so happy to hear from you again — and even happier to hear about the steps you've taken to help yourself. It's huge that you were able to reach out to someone and to take advantage of your school's counseling program. You have every reason to have hope; recovery is absolutely possible, and that you have done so much already is excellent progress. I'm grateful to have been of any help in this, and I want to thank you, too, for letting me know how you're doing. Please do not hesitate to comment again if you need my help again — or just to give another update, if you like. :)
Wishing you all the best with your recovery and beyond,
Kim

H
July, 19 2022 at 8:38 pm

Hi Hanna, hi Kim,
It's crazy to read your posts, especially Hanna's - a 15 year old girl in Japan I can relate so much to. I'm 24 and in Germany, and I've struggled with procrastination for ever! Honestly, don't take that step of using a blade on your skin. You will get scars that last you for ever. It's not worth it. Your body is beautiful, and even if you can't love yourself, you should treat it well and be gentle with it. You sound like a really great person, your English and writing style is great, and I am sure you will find a way to study/work that fits you.
What Kim wrote about craving attention and simultaneously being terrified of anyone finding or asking questions is so on point as well. I have found that I use self harm as a mechanism to defer responsibility lately. Like, "I don't want to/feel like I can't deal with an overwhelming situation" so I'll self harm and have thoughts wishing that someone will help me, and essentially take me out of that situation. Other times I feel sad/angry but have no way of expressing my frustration to anyone properly, so I will self harm to have some kind of validation of my feelings to myself, that they are real. I fantasize about getting help, but I will never actually open up or admit to self harming. Feelings like I am doing it for attention, I am a fraud, faking it, my situation is not bad, or I am using self harm as an excuse are definitely haunting me, even as I am writing this.

July, 29 2022 at 12:10 pm

Hi "H",
Thanks for your reply. It's definitely not uncommon to feel many of the things you described as a self-harmer—sometimes it can all feel like one big, painful paradox of emotions and motivations. I think the fact that you fantasize about getting help is actually a good sign—it means that at least part of you is open to, or desiring of, help and healing. That's the first step.
Commenting like this, even anonymously, is another step in the right direction. Just being able to articulate your feelings, even to a stranger on the internet, is huge.
Comparing yourself to others ("my situation is not that bad") is a huge trap; I used to do it to myself all the time. It's a way to trick yourself into feeling even worse, because if things aren't that bad, why do you feel so bad—right? It's also a way to trick yourself out of getting help—it's easier, in some ways, to pretend it's not so bad than to admit that it's bad enough that something needs to be done. But the fact is, if you are hurting yourself, this means you are struggling. It means you are looking for relief from something that you're finding it difficult to cope with. And there ARE better ways to cope, ways that will work for you—though it may take a little time and patience to start finding them.
So please never say "never" (except the way I did, just now :P). It IS possible to heal without professional help—I was able to quit on my own—but it is usually much easier to do it with help, professional or otherwise. I got into therapy a decade after I stopped actively self-harming, and believe it or not, it was still incredibly helpful. How you feel about getting help now may not be how you feel tomorrow, or next year, or ten years from now. And keep in mind that you can start small—maybe see if you can find an anonymous support group or something, if you're not ready to be "you" when you talk about self-harm just yet.
Here are some resource pages that might help:
https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-refer…
https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/self-injury/self-injury-homepage
Finally, this will mean much more when you believe it than when someone like me says it, but for what it's worth: You are not a fraud. Your situation is real. Your pain is real. And you deserve to heal.
I hope you get to begin your healing journey sooner rather than later. If you have any further questions, comments, etc., feel free to reply here or elsewhere on the blog; I'll be reading. :)
Sincerely,
Kim

Indica
March, 28 2022 at 4:26 am

Hi
I am currently 14 , and I self harm ...I do it when my traumas come back. My parents say I do it for attention when I actually do not. In the past my friends have been ditching me and saying bad stuff about me . Every night I cry thinking about it ...now I cut myself...stall the healing process etc...

April, 12 2022 at 9:57 am

Hi Indica,
I'm sorry to hear that you're going through so much. It's hard when the people we love don't understand what we're going through, and worse when they judge us for it. Your friends have every right to feel however they feel, but it was wrong of them to ditch you and talk badly about you, whether it's to your face or behind your back. It's hard to heal without support, and it sounds like you could definitely use some real support right now.
Are you able to get in touch with a therapist or mental health counselor? Some schools offer services of this type for free. There are also online options, and some hotlines you could call if you're not sure what to do or where to start. I really think having someone like that in your corner would be HUGELY beneficial in a lot of ways. Not only can they help you work through your traumas and begin recovering from your self-harm, but they can also help your parents to better understand what you're really going through—and then they can offer you better support as a result.
Here's our resources page, which has some links you can check out and some hotlines you can try if you're ready to reach out:
https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-refer…
And here's our main self-harm hub; it might be worth sharing this with your parents if you think it will help them understand your situation better:
https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/self-injury/self-injury-homepage
If you're not ready for therapy just yet, consider joining a support group—there are even online ones now, so you wouldn't have to worry about transportation. Or, again, calling a hotline can help in a moment of crisis.
In addition to any (or all) of these options, I hope you have someone in your life you can talk to without fear of being judged. It's possible to get on the healing path without talking to anyone about, but it's much easier with support. I'm here, too, if you have any more questions or concerns or just need to talk.
Sincerely,
Kim

Joey
October, 22 2021 at 2:25 pm

I am 15 and I've been self-harming for some time now. I don't hate myself, nor do I want to d*e. I find myself looking at my scars and admiring them. In some times, I take my scissors and cut shapes into my hand. I think I just love the way the injuries look. I do more things similar to these and I don't think this is very healthy. Is it bad? Should I do something about it?

October, 27 2021 at 4:16 pm

Hi Joey,
I'm glad to hear that you don't seem to harbor especially negative feelings towards yourself or towards life in general, but I am concerned about your self-harm regardless. The fact that you are wondering if it is healthy is a good instinct to have, and one I think you should follow up on. While I am not a therapist and can't officially diagnose you or anything like that, I do think it would be well worth your time to speak to a therapist, school counselor, or even call a hotline to discuss your self-harm, your concerns, and what steps you might want to take next.
If you're not sure who to reach out to or where to start, this resource page is a good place to look first:
https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-refer…
Thank you for reaching out; it's always good to ask these questions, rather than wonder alone. Please feel free to reply here or comment again elsewhere on the blog if you have any more questions or thoughts you'd like to share.
Sincerely,
Kim

nita
October, 20 2020 at 4:42 pm

I am 16 and I fight with my family 24/7. It's my fault, I know it is, but I get so hurt and stuff that I cut myself. I've downed pills before, two or three times, but each time I failed. My brother writes on the chalkboard that I'm an incompetent waste of oxygen and a bitch-which is true, I am a bitch, but It still hurts. My mom found out I was cutting and said I was doing it for attention and it was mean to do that while people out there with that disease were actually doing it for a reason because they had that disease. And she says that I wear short sleeves all the time anyway not long sleeves like the actual people do, and I'm like whatever, not like you'd care, and I don't at school because why would I? I tried like 2 and my friend was like "What's wrong with your arms" and I was like, "NOTHING!" I don't know what's real, am I doing it for attention? I'm writing this, so then I am doing this for attention? I DON"T KNOW!!! I haven't been depressed recently either so i don't know.

October, 20 2020 at 7:40 pm

Hi Nita,
I'm sorry to hear things have been so difficult. Self-harm, regardless of your reasons for it or the circumstances surrounding it, is always a challenge to cope with, both for the person who is harming themselves and for those who know about it. And I can't imagine it was easy to share your story, either--but I'm glad you're still here to do so. I want to share a few things with you in return.
First, know that self-harm comes in many forms. Many people do self-harm for attention, but whether you do or not does not qualify or disqualify you as a person who self-harms. Likewise, wearing short sleeves does not make hurting yourself more or less severe of a problem. Depression can often be a cause or trigger for self-harm, but not everyone who self-harms is depressed. If you hurt yourself, and especially if you hurt yourself repeatedly, then that is self-harm. This may be difficult for others to understand, especially people who do not hurt themselves, but I think it is important for you to understand.
That leads me to my second point. I am not a trained clinician, nor am I a mind-reader, so I can't pretend to know the reasons behind your mother's and brother's responses to your struggle. However, I do want to put it out there that people cope with difficulty in different ways. It may be challenging for them to accept that you self-harm, and this difficulty may cause them to react in ways that may be confusing and/or hurtful. These reactions, however, don't necessarily mean that they don't care. Often, it means the opposite.
Finally, while this may not be what you want to hear, I do strongly encourage you to find someone neutral to talk to about this issue. Self-harm can be difficult in and of itself, but you also seem to be struggling with negative self-talk as well as strained relationships with your family. Talking to someone like a counselor or therapist will not only give you someone you can vent to without fear of judgment or harsh responses, but also the opportunity to explore your real reasons for self-harming--whatever they may be. A trained clinician can also help you find other, healthier alternatives for coping with these reasons--and with how others may react to your self-harm or your recovery.
If you're not sure how to get in touch with a therapist or someone else who can help, and especially if you're not sure how your family will react to you seeking any kind of counseling, try talking to a counselor at school or work (if one is available to you) or try calling a hotline. There are even some services that allow you to text, email, or instant message if you're not comfortable talking on the phone.
There is absolutely no shame in asking for help. After all, if you have a serious physical illness, you go to a doctor or a hospital, right? Your mental health is just as important.
Here are some resources on our own website you can use as a jumping-off point for understanding more about self-harm and finding help when you're ready:
https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/self-injury/self-injury-homepage
If you have more questions, thoughts, or concerns you'd like to share here, feel free to do so. I am always happy to help in any way I can.
Sincerely,
Kim

sophie :/
May, 25 2020 at 4:53 pm

im 14, I have self harmed for 2 years so not that long. sometimes I look at my arms and think the scars aren't bad enough or worthy enough to the pain I feel. I wear bandages so I can take my jumper of because last summer holidays I stayed in jumper and joggers and it was horrible. Ive got no summer clothes so that's why I take the jumper of because I haven't got long sleeve shirts. i use to do it daily but its not as often because there is either no space or I have no reason. I want the teachers to notice though and when I take it off I hate it and become conscious. but I allow the teachers to see the bandages, it makes me feel like im doing it for attention because I told a teacher cause he found a razor in my pencil case and it was someone I trusted but I eventually pushed him away. theres teachers I feel comfortable with and I wish they knew but at the same time I don't. its normally male teachers as my dad was abusive and he disappeared. and when I met his gf she was horrible and had a massive fight with us so I don't trust females.
when I self harm I feel like its for attention because I want others to know about it and I show the bandages and I always want my scars to look worse. please explain why I want that and why I feel like this

May, 27 2020 at 7:52 pm

Hi Sophie,
I'm sorry to hear that you are going through all of this. I'm not the author of this particular post and I cannot say that I know exactly how you feel, but I do understand some of what you are experiencing, and I know that it must be pretty difficult to feel torn between wanting to talk about your self-harm while at the same time being hesitant about opening up. I am not a medical professional, and my experience is not exactly the same as yours, so unfortunately I cannot give you a simple explanation for why you feel the things you do. But I do want you to know that you are not alone in feeling these things--I have felt some of the same things, myself--and that it is not unusual or unnatural to feel them.
I think it is a positive thing to try and share your scars and open up about your self-harm, whether to your teachers or other people you trust or even just here on the blog, because talking is often the first step we take toward healing. I encourage you to follow this instinct and consider talking to a counselor or therapist about your self-harm--someone with the right training to be able to help you find the answers you are looking for. Even just opening up to a trusted teacher, though, is a very good start.
I also want to thank you for sharing your feelings here; I think by doing so, you are helping others who feel similarly realize that they are not alone, just as I hope I have been able to do for you. I hope, too, that you are able to find someone you feel comfortable opening up to more fully about your self-harm, whether it is the teacher you mentioned or a counselor or someone else in your life you can rely on for support during this time. I know it can be a difficult, even scary, thing to talk about, but it can also be a huge relief to have someone on your side who knows what you are going through and is in a position to help you get through it.
Please feel free to check out our self-harm resources page -- there is a lot of great info there that you may find helpful too: https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/self-injury/self-injury-homepage

Chloe
March, 4 2020 at 10:05 pm

I am 12 years old and I self harm (scratch and intentionally stall the healing process and watching myself bleed when doing so.) I have told a couple of people I trust and some people found out but when I told them I feel like I did it for attention. I'm really confused what's going on, and I always get mad everyday because I skip a day of harming myself. I'm also scared of my friends ( I guess) telling my counselor and then telling my parents. My dad used to abuse me when I was younger so i'm so permanently scared of him. I wouldn't know how to explain to my parents then. Now I always feel like someone will judge me cause of my scars. During P.E. I'm basically overheating because I wear my black hoodie. I also want to know how to make it less obvious, because I used to not wear a hoodie. I'm scared because I know this person who self harmed and was sent in a police car to a mental hospital. Could I get some opinions of what you think please?

March, 5 2020 at 10:37 am

Hi Chloe,
Thank you for your comment. It takes bravery to admit that you are in the midst of a struggle. I am so sorry that you are confused and in pain. Please see our resources and hotline pages for ways to get help: https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/self-injury/self-injury-homepage and https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-refer….
I know it's hard, but please reach out.
Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer
Blog Moderator

felix
February, 8 2020 at 6:24 pm

hi i dont know whats happening with me but ive started to self harm by cutting into my arm with my knife making lines and writing things. i dont really know why i am. i am going through depression and on anti depressants. Im scared that my parents will find out ive self harmed, im paranoid about them seeing my arm. but on the other hand when at school, i feel ashamed and dont want ppl to see so i cover it up, but ocasionally i want my friend to see it, not by shoving my arm in his face, but i want him to find out somehow, and i dont know why. why am i feeling like this. I feel like cutting myself more because i feel like punishing myself but also its a bit of relief and i want scars.
help

February, 8 2020 at 6:44 pm

Hi Felix,
Thank you for your comment. I am so sorry to hear that you are in the midst of this difficult circumstance. Please see our resources and hotlines pages for ways to get help: https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/self-injury/self-injury-homepage and https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-refer….
I know it's hard, but please reach out.
Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer
Blog Moderator

Zakiel
December, 15 2019 at 9:33 am

I self harm. I've told someone about it once. I've done it before very publicly (dragged my knuckles on the school walls til they bled). I know how to stop self harming. For some reason I don't stop self harming. I feel like I'm doing it for attention. Can I get your opinions on this please?

lilo
September, 27 2019 at 7:12 am

what am i supposed to tell someone if they are self harming infront of people for attention

September, 28 2019 at 11:39 am

Hi Lilo,
The best thing to do is talk to them about what it is they're struggling with. When we do things for attention, it's because we feel something is lacking in our lives. Ask them what it is they feel they need from people, and how that need can be addressed in other ways.
It also doesn't hurt to express your concern, as long as you aren't lecturing or criticizing. Focus your concern on the thoughts and emotions behind the self-harm and not so much on the self-harm itself.
Hope this helps, and best of luck.
Kayla

Emily
July, 15 2019 at 1:58 am

I have been struggling with nssi addiction for about ten years, and let me tell you, this article felt like a virtual hug. Thank you for writing this.

July, 15 2019 at 7:24 pm

Hi Emily,
I'm so glad you found this article helpful in some way. I hope this blog can become a source of comfort and hope to you.
All the best,
Kayla

Abi
February, 27 2019 at 4:08 pm

I’m currently struggling with self harm (I’m currently 14) and I feel like I’m attention seeking and it’s extremely confusing me and making me feel worse

Molly
March, 20 2019 at 3:54 pm

Hi abi, I am no professional but from my experience telling someone is the best medicine. It doesn’t have to be a parent, it could be a friend, club leader, teacher or school counsellor but telling someone will certainly be a great first step. Personally I found that for me ( I was a similar age to you when I struggled and am now 18) telling a close teacher was great. You don’t have to tell them face to face; many people find that writing it down and handing to them is helpful. It also allows you to make sure you share EVERYTHING that’s on your mind as you sometimes may get caught up in emotions and miss out important things. If you tell a close teacher or club leader, they usually inform your parents however this can be helpful as it takes that pressure of that conversation off of you. Once you tel someone it releases so much desire to do better and a lot of strength that you won’t know you had. I promise that sharing it will help, you’ll probably be surprised how many cases a teacher or counsellor at school has helped- it’s so common and you aren’t the only one going through this.
Please keep talking and try maybe writing down or drawing the exact feelings when you want to self harm as it may help you to identify small triggers and a pattern in behaviour. Self harming for attention isn’t something to be ashamed of it’s just a way of asking for help with a deeper issue and if you can share that, then the deeper issue can start to heal and so will the pattern of hurting yourself.
All the best.

Felicia
February, 26 2019 at 7:45 am

I self harmed in the past ( teenage years) and there was a point that I didn't want to live becuase of the on going pain I was enduring but I am faced with an issue in my home with my step son. He has never displayed any actions of self hard nor has anyone seen any scares. He is now stating that he is acting out because he wants to self harm for attention. I worry about 2 things; 1. Is he going to self harm? 2. Is he saying this with no intention of self harm, literally only to seek attention and to blame his action on that. I don't want to sound heartless because beleive me that is not the case. I am just a worried parent dealing with a lot.

February, 26 2019 at 10:23 am

Hi Felicia,
I'm sorry to hear of your past with self-harm, and of the current struggle you and your stepson are having. In my (non-professional) opinion, when someone is threatening self-harm, it is always best to assume they are serious and have every intention of following through with their threat -- similar to someone who is threatening suicide.
But the problem goes beyond the immediate threat of self-harm. If he is saying he needs attention, what he might really be saying is that he needs help. Though it may be tempting to fixate on the self-harm, it's important that you both try to figure out what he is going through mentally and emotionally and address it. As I'm sure you know, self-harm is never born of a vacuum. It always comes from somewhere else.
Hope this helps, and I wish you both well.

Juliet
February, 3 2019 at 2:43 pm

Is self harm among young girls sometimes not just a trend. A way of getting attention. But still not 'normal behaviour. My daughter refuses to go to counselling. How do I deal with this?

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