What Do Dreams About Self-Harm Mean?

July 9, 2020 Kim Berkley

Dreams mean many things to many people. Some remind us of memories, whether recent or long-buried; others reflect our hopes and fears about the present or the future. But what do dreams about self-harm mean?

Do Dreams About Self-Harm Mean You Want to Hurt Yourself?

Dreaming about self-injury does not necessarily indicate a real desire to inflict pain on yourself. What they do mean depends very heavily on a variety of factors, including: your own personal experiences and views on self-harm, things you may have read or heard recently about self-harm, how you see yourself, and your current worldview. Whether the dream is pleasant or a nightmare also makes a difference in how it can be interpreted.

If you self-harm, or used to injure yourself in the past, your dreams about self-harm could be a reflection of any of the following:

  • Memories, repressed or otherwise, of real past experiences with self-harm, surfacing due to some trigger you encountered during the day
  • Fear of relapse. Even if it has been a long time since you last hurt yourself, it is not uncommon to worry now and then that you will fall back into old habits.
  • Stress, related to the pressure you or others may be putting on you to refrain from self-harm. In this case, you may be craving the relief that self-harm used to bring you, even if you have no inclination to actually hurt yourself.

If you have never self-harmed, there are many other possibilities to consider. Your dreams may instead reflect:

  • A negative self-view or low self-esteem. You may be angry, or disappointed, with yourself, or you may simply feel that you are "not enough." Such dreams may indicate a feeling that you deserve to be punished, but not necessarily with physical injury.
  • Feeling overwhelmed and like you need an escape from your current situation. In this case, your self-harm dreams may indicate a desire for relief from something that has been weighing heavily on your mind.
  • Feeling neglected or isolated, in which case, the self-harm in your dreams may indicate a wish for others to recognize that you are hurting and, perhaps, help you heal.

This is not an exhaustive list, and it is possible that your dreams may reflect more than one of these possibilities. Your dreams, after all, belong to you; the purpose of this list is merely to help you consider what might be true for you.

If you want a more in-depth analysis, you may want to speak with a counselor or therapist who has experience with dream analysis and can provide expert guidance to help you better understand your dreams. If your dreams are causing you distress or negatively impacting your health in any way, please speak with a medical professional who can help you find healthy ways to cope with your dreams. Sleep is an incredibly important component of mental and physical wellness.

When Are Dreams About Self-Harm Actually About Self-Harm?

Dreams about self-harm aren't always about actually wanting to hurt yourself, but sometimes, they can be. Context is key when determining whether or not this is true of your dreams. Ask yourself the following:

  • Have I deliberately hurt myself recently?
  • Have I been thinking about hurting myself while I'm awake?
  • Has anything happened lately that might trigger self-harm cravings?

A "yes" answer (or even a strong "maybe") to any of the above may indicate a true inclination to hurt yourself, especially if you have a past history of self-harm or are experiencing extreme stress or distress. If you are worried that you will hurt yourself, please reach out as soon as possible to get help, ideally from a medical professional.

If you feel you are in immediate danger of harming yourself, please call a hotline or, if it is an emergency, 9-1-1.

No matter how you interpret your dream, remember: dream analysis isn't a crystal ball into which you can look for definite answers about the past or the future. Rather, it is one of many possible windows through which you may peek to try and gain a deeper understanding of yourself, as you are right now.

Have you had any dreams about self-harm recently? Let us know in the comments if you have any tips for better sleep or if you have alternative suggestions for understanding these dreams.

APA Reference
Kim Berkley (2020, July 9). What Do Dreams About Self-Harm Mean?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, November 28 from

Author: Kim Berkley

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November, 21 2020 at 12:03 am

I've just woke from a terrible self harm dream. Which is strange as I've never cut or harmed myself in waking life. I dreamt I sliced off my clitoris and threw it away. I was lying in bed with my new boyfriend and he told me that there would be only one night of passion per week as he worked so hard at his job. So I sliced off my clitoris and vulva, there was no blood , no damage to myself just a piece of see through flesh thrown on the floor. It was a dreadful nightmare which when I awoke I was drenched with sweat. I haven't had a nightmare in over 30 yrs so this is very disturbing for me.

October, 13 2020 at 5:45 pm

In this one dream that’s still haunts me and makes me question was just me waking up to the burning of a thousand cuts on my both my arms. I went through the day with them constantly looking at them and hiding them with longs sleeves. I don’t remember much, it was all a blur but those major events. Later on I woke up in the middle of the night and I can still feel the burning of the cuts on my arms but of course I don’t have cuts on my actual self, it was only in the dream. It was really weird. I continued to feel the burn on my arms through out the day. I continued to look at my arms but like I said, I don’t have any cuts nor do I have scars from the passed.

October, 13 2020 at 7:58 pm

Hi Gigi,
Thank you for sharing your dream with me. Dreams can be really potent experiences; I remember I had one once in which someone grabbed my arm so tightly it bruised me and when I woke up, my arm hurt (though there was no mark, of course).
I am not a professional dream interpreter, but I have a lot of experience with intense dreams (especially nightmares) and I can imagine how distressing a dream like the one you described must have been. It's likely that the burning you felt was a kind of somatic effect--your brain thought that it should hurt, so you experienced pain. It's also possible that something occurred before or during your sleep that caused you to feel the burning sensation while you slept (maybe you brushed against something your skin had a reaction to?) and this actually triggered the burning in your dream.
In either case, the important thing to remember, of course, is that it was just a dream--even if you felt physical effects from it upon waking. Rather than be haunted by it, consider what you might be able to learn from it. This might simply be that you were under stress and in need of relief--nightmares can often signal that we simply need a break from something we've been dealing with, or alternatively that we need to face something we've been avoiding.
If you want to dive deeper into the meaning of your dream, be sure to talk to someone with professional dream psychology training! Keeping a dream journal and tracking patterns and your own personal interpretations can also be helpful.
Otherwise, I hope your dreams tonight are more restful. Thank you again for your comment!
- Kim

September, 11 2020 at 7:03 pm

Ok so in my dream 5 people were hunting me and two others, but at times i was one of the hunters. They needed to get us to remain young? And a numerous amount of times they would corner me and the two others but we would escape then the hunters as some penance/ritual/medical procedure they would self harm, i am not talking some horizontal slashes on the wrist im talking plunging a stiletto knife into their hearts. Now this is is the only times i would become the hunter, to stab myself and die at the end. I cannot remember seeing the others do it although i know they did but the only 'self harm' i saw was when i did it to myself.
At the end, they had again cornered us but we escaped and finally got far away and they could not chase us anymore and then i was one of the hunters again but this time i did not stab myself, all 5 of us started to decay. I saw them fester and rot and decay and then it started to happen to me then i woke up. The others died so i only assume i did too.
I think i remember each time i stabbed myself it 'felt' as though it was pressure on my chest, i could feel the knife. After each stab my hunter body would heal and we would start hunting again then the role would switch to one of the escapees.
To add to the weirdness, the hunters were famous people. When i first woke up i knew all their faces but now i only recall two. The leader who made me stab myself was Octavia Spencer and the man who i was, who stabbed themselves was Chris Pratt. I have this weird notion that when i was not Chris Pratt, he was trying to help us escape, purposely failing to catch us but i do not remember this happening at all.
I might know why there might have been some of these things but not all, in fact i want to say i might only know why it was in the heart and that is is.
Plus another oddity, when i went to sleep i was drunk-ish, i dont dream when i am drunk or if i do i never remember it, this is the first time. Even if i go to bed drunk and wake up a few hours later when i am sober-ish i do not dream or if i do i never remember it, this is the first time.
After reading it again i am not sure if this equates to 'self harm'. Plus i would say it was a nightmare as it was terrifying being chased and almost caught and dreadful knowing i had to stab myself afterwards.

September, 16 2020 at 1:16 pm

Thank you for your comment, and for sharing your dream with me. I want to start by being very clear about this: I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist, or licensed dream interpreter. So I can't analyze your dream for you the way someone with more professional experience would be able to (though I highly encourage you to contact such a professional if you wish to better understand and relate with your dreams!).
What I can say is that I have had many chase nightmares over the years, and I know how stressful they can be--especially when coupled with self-harm imagery. It can be very disconcerting to feel forced to hurt yourself, even if it is "just a dream," because in that moment, those feelings can be very real, even in a fantastical context. So I can imagine that was a pretty intense dream for you!
I will also say--as a layman--that I imagine a lot of your dream imagery is probably coming from things you've seen or read. Recent memories are usually the origin, but keep in mind that dreams may pull from your long-term memory too--it may be that some of this came from something you watched or learned about a long time ago, that something in recent days may have triggered the memory of (even if only in your subconscious).
I also don't dream much when I drink before bed, but I've had the occasional vivid drunk-dream, too. The difference may have been anything from the specific drink you had (if it wasn't your usual), to food you ate within the last few hours before sleep, to some other environmental trigger you may not have consciously taken much note of. Dreams are pretty tricky that way.
The good news is that it was a dream, and that it in no way means that you *have* to hurt yourself, or even necessarily that you want to. It may mean that you have some inner turmoil that you need to work through, possibly some guilt or something you dislike about yourself--nightmares are often connected to these things. So again, you may want to look into working with a therapist or counselor who specializes in dream analysis if you want to know more. You can also try dream journaling; writing things down can sometimes help clarify their meaning.
I hope this helps! If you need more resources regarding self-harm, be sure to check out this page:
Here's hoping for more restful dreaming (for us both!) tonight. Good luck!

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