The Most Common Self-Harm Myths and Misconceptions

July 13, 2020 Martyna Halas

Like mental health in general, self-harm is surrounded by harmful stereotypes that perpetuate the feelings of fear, guilt, and shame. We can only bust these self-harm myths by educating one another and by spreading awareness about self-injury.

Why Busting Self-Harm Myths Is Important

Living with self-harm for the past decade and a half, I have come across many of these common self-harm myths. As a result, they stopped me from seeking help or made my self-harm urges even stronger. Hearing these statements made me feel ashamed of myself. It made me feel like my pain was a joke to the people around me. It made me feel pathetic.

Myths become powerful as they start to resemble the truth if we repeat them over and over. Stereotypes about self-injury can be hurtful, and they push those who suffer deeper inside their shells, thickening the wall between them and the rest of the world.

Today, I would like to address three of the most common self-harm myths. If you suspect that the person you care about hurts themselves, please know that spreading these presumptions will make things worse. (There are better ways in which you could help, and many self-injury articles and resources are available here at HealthyPlace.)

Myths and Facts About Self-Injury

  • Self-harm is for attention. The reality is that self-harm is a secret act, and the person who self-injures will usually go to great lengths to cover up his or her scars. Being discovered is often a source of crippling fear. The main reason people self-harm is because it helps them cope, not because they want attention.
  • Self-harm means you're mentally ill. Self-injury can indeed be a symptom of an underlying mental illness, but that's not always the case. Many people who self-harm do not meet the criteria for a psychiatric diagnosis. While there is nothing shameful about having mental health issues, a statement like this stigmatizes both. It could potentially alienate someone who is self-harming and stop them from seeking help.
  • Self-harm means you're suicidal. By definition, self-harm is performed without suicidal intent, which is why it is called non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). While it can be a risk factor, especially when the injuries are severe, self-harm does not always mean the person is suicidal. It might seem illogical, but some people self-injure to keep their suicidal thoughts under control. They want to stay alive -- they just don't know how else to cope with their inner pain.

Are there any other self-harm myths that you came across? Let us know in the comments.

APA Reference
Halas, M. (2020, July 13). The Most Common Self-Harm Myths and Misconceptions, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 24 from

Author: Martyna Halas

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