What Do Dreams About Self-Harm Mean?
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.
Kim Berkley (2020, July 9). What Do Dreams About Self-Harm Mean?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, December 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2020/7/what-do-dreams-about-self-harm-mean
Author: Kim Berkley
I'm sorry to hear about your struggle with self-harm, but I thank you for sharing your story and your dream here with me and with others who may connect with and recognize some of the things you are dealing with as similar struggles to their own. Sometimes it helps just to be reminded that we are not the only ones struggling with this or that issue, even if our specific experiences are unique to us and us alone.
I am not medically qualified to interpret your dream for you as a therapist or counselor with dream analysis training would be able to—so if you would like for a deeper analysis of this and other dreams you may have been having lately, I would strongly recommend seeing someone. Even if that is not the case, I do encourage you to find someone you can talk to about your journey (if you don't have someone like this already) because it sounds like you are carrying a lot on your shoulders.
I will say that it does seem to me like your dream is directly connected to your self-harm in real life and your relationships. You mentioned that you only self-harm when you are not in a relationship, and in your dream, your self-harm seemed to open the door to a loving, welcoming relationship. While I want to emphasize that you should not take any of this to mean that you need to be in a romantic relationship to be healthy (or, for that matter, happy), I do think it would be worth exploring whether your self-harm is tied to feelings of loneliness or your self-esteem, or both. I think the positive outcome of your self-harm in the dream may have less to do with the relationship in the dream than the real-life relief that you may feel after you self-harm. Just like in your dream, many people feel a sense of peace or relief after self-harming—which is why it becomes so tempting to so many people as a means of escaping from overwhelming negative emotions.
However, again, this is just my opinion. I know it may not be easy, but I do think that finding the right therapist or counselor to talk to would be a big help for you in working through the complex issues you are facing, both in your dreams and in your waking life.
However, if you're not ready to take that step yet or have had difficulty finding adequate help locally, keep in mind that there are lots of resources that don't require payment--or even for you to leave the house. This resource page has a long list of hotlines and websites that may help: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-refer…
And here is our self-harm resource page, which has a ton of great information on your condition as well as coping tips you can use whether or not you choose to seek professional support: https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/self-injury/self-injury-homepage
I hope this helps. Wishing you all the best on your recovery journey,
(I am a minor writing this so I go to school) I had a disturbing dream last night were I was in my house sitting at our dining room table and my mom was speaking to me about something I cannot remember . But what I do remember is turning around to fast my mother again and she was cutting both wrist while guilt tripping me in mutter. I remember starting to cry and telling her to stop and cutting herself wouldn't make a difference but she refused and kept going. The worst part was it felt so real because it took place in my home. Aside from that, my family has been in a crisis with money because of the pandemic, and I have been having trouble in school missing assignments and stuff which has caused me to get yelled at my parents/teachers. And my mom has been struggling to blaming herself for all that has happened. I also used to self harm when overwhelmed or under a lot of pressure. Though I've been pretty good with keeping myself occupied with other things to stray away from self harm.
Thank you for sharing your dream. While obviously I cannot say I've had the same exact dream, I can certainly relate to having nightmares that feel too real and hit uncomfortably close to home. It's no picnic, and while ultimately dreams are not reality, they feel real enough that they can evoke very real, and sometimes very difficult, emotions like the ones you describe.
As I've mentioned already, I am not a licensed therapist or medical professional and cannot interpret your dream for you. However, I will say that it seems likely to me that your dream may have some connection to the crisis your family has been facing and the stress you've been dealing with personally. Nightmares are often the brain's way of rearranging and reinterpreting stress and negative experiences to bring them to our conscious attention, so that we can face them and deal with them in our waking lives.
I am glad to hear that you have been able to avoid self-harming in order to cope with everything; staying productive can certainly be a much healthier way to cope, though it is important to take breaks when you need them as well. With everything that is going on in your life at the moment, I would strongly recommend talking to someone such as a therapist or your school counselor to work through what you're dealing with and maybe help you find some solutions you may not find, or be able to enact, on your own. Stress can be every bit as harmful to your health as a physical illness, especially if it is prolonged, so it's important if you can to find someone you can talk to and who can help you unpack some of the heavier burdens you're currently carrying.
However, if you're not ready to take that step or do not have access to that kind of help locally, know that there are also a multitude of free or low-cost resources online and on the phone that you can turn to whenever you need to. Here's our resource page, which has a nice list of hotlines and websites you can use anytime: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-refer…
I hope the new year brings more restful sleep and changes for the better for you and your family. Take care.
In my dream, me and a bunch of other young kids and teens were all trapped in some twisted school place where we were tortured. Some of the kids were aliens. This dream was very disturbing because I could feel the torture, maybe not as bad as it may be in real life but I was feeling pain. It was very distressing especially including the fact that my sister was one of the torturers and she was cutting my arms deeply, and I felt it. The torturers would just walk around and do stuff to the kids like cut their skin off. We had to go to different classes and go through more torture with each class, but no matter how hurt we got we had to keep going. It was terrible and I woke up crying. Even in my dream as my sister cut me I was crying and yelling for her to stop but she giggled and refused. In the end I woke up and I felt very exhausted, sad and semi-traumatised from what I witnessed. Surely I had seen some of these torture methods in movies but this time they just felt so real.
One of the worst things, in my experience, about nightmares is how vivid and real they can feel. I can only imagine how distressing this one must have been for you--especially since it evoked such a visceral reaction in you even when you woke. While I cannot interpret it for you from a professional standpoint, I will say that it sounds like this dream might be a good hint that it's time to step back and take a look at your overall wellness. As you said, the imagery in your dream was most likely drawn from things you've seen on TV and other media. However, the severity of your nightmare seems to me like your subconscious might be trying to tell you something important. It might be as simple as perhaps feeling a little overwhelmed with stress or other negative emotions, or that something recently triggered a memory of a time when that was the case.
In any case, it never hurts to check in with yourself. And if you keep having this dream or ones like it, or if you are still feeling very distressed by this nightmare, consider talking to a counselor or therapist--ideally one familiar with dream analysis--to get some help in working through it.
I hope your dreams since this one have been more pleasant, or if not, that you are able to find someone who can work together with you to solve the problems your mind is trying to solve with these nightmares. I wish you the best of luck--and thank you for your comment. Sometimes simply sharing our dreams helps dispel some of the distress; I hope sharing yours here has helped!
I too have had vivid dreaming experiences that feel so real to the point I have woken up and even felt sore or tired. I have found that setting the mood an hour before bed can help. what I usually do is an hour before bed I only watch or engage in light soft things to read, watch, play etc. I found that there is a correlation between what I do just before bed and what I dream about. I also listen to natural sounds whilst I sleep, that has really helped me get a lovely nights sleep and dreams. I am currently listening to the lovely soothing sound of rain, works beautifully for me. I'll link the the sound I currently use https://youtu.be/HI3RM8h5qZ8 give it a try. hope it really helps.
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.
Apologies for the long-overdue reply. I can certainly imagine how disturbing this dream must have been to you, especially as you mentioned not having nightmares for so long. While I am not in a position to be able to interpret it for you, I will say that it sounds like you might want to take a moment to stop and take stock of your stress levels in your waking life. While it is my person, non-professional opinion that your dream probably does not have to do with any conscious desire to hurt yourself, experiencing such a vivid nightmare after going so long without any (at least, any that you can recall) certainly seems to warrant a bit of a check-in.
Of course, nightmares can also be caused by a wide array of non-mental health related factors, such as eating certain foods too close to bedtime. That's not to dismiss or minimize your experience, but rather, something to keep in mind--it's all too easy to read more than necessary into even the most vivid dreams.
In any case, I hope your nights since have been more restful, and I wish you all the best. Thank you for your comment!
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.
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!
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.
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: https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/self-injury/self-injury-homepage
Here's hoping for more restful dreaming (for us both!) tonight. Good luck!