The Sociology of Self Injury

The act of deliberately causing injury to the body without intention of suicide is self injury. Some of the behaviors which are considered to be self injury include burning, hitting the body, banging against other objects, pulling out the hair, or scratching. Although the intention is not suicidal, in extreme cases, self injury can be life threatening. There are also cases where self injury can eventually lead to suicide. Some of the common symptoms found in patients who indulge in self harm are depression, abuse, anxiety, eating disorders, stress disorders, and personality disorders. Self injury is viewed as a mechanism to cope with certain intense emotional feeling but it’s not considered to be suicidal behavior.

Factors that Lead People to Self Injure

Factors which can lead to self injury are mental illness, psychological factors, hereditary causes, drugs, and alcohol. Some of the psychological disorders which can increase the risk of self harming tendency are anti social personality disorder, dissociative disorder, post traumatic stress syndrome, and depression. Individuals who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder indulge in nail biting and hair pulling. While genes can also contribute to the risk of developing anxiety, it’s not directly related to the condition.

  • Causes: The NHS highlights some of the causes of self injury.
  • Self Injury Causes: The Mayo Clinic explains why some people injure themselves.
  • Self Injury in Adolescents: The AACAP provides an overview of self injury including the causes.
  • Causes of Self Harm: The page outlines some of the causes for self harm.
  • Factors: The section discusses the causes of self injury.
  • Male SI: Some people think this disorder only pertains to females but males can be just as affected.


  • About 4% of the adults in U.S. indulge in self harm.
  • One in every 100 person is involved in self harm.
  • Girls are four times more likely to involve in self harm as compared to boys.
  • Girls in the age of 16 to 25 years are at the highest risk.
  • Highest self harm cases are found in homeless youth.
  • 50% of cases of self harm are attributed to people who have been sexually abused as children.

Ways to Help

Self harm awareness programs can prevent such cases. When parents suspect that their kids are indulging in self injury, they should consult a professional to diagnose the disorder. If you think someone is self injuring, you should try to prevent the condition by taking the person to a psychiatrist. Sometimes, some people harm themselves to gain attention but generally, it can be cured. Anti-depressant drugs are administered by medical practitioners to control the psychological disorder, which in turn reduces the tendency for the patient to self injure. In more severe cases, these people are hospitalized to provide stability.

  • S.A.F.E. Alternatives: A national center to help people who suffer from self injury.
  • Self Injury: A community dedicated to providing support for self harming individuals.
  • Getting Help: Kids Health outlines the ways to deal with the problem.
  • Self-Help: The page offers advice for people to stop self injury.
  • Warning Signs & Treatment: Learn about the warning signs and treatment of self injury.

Personal Stories

People who suffer from self injury must take heart that they are not alone. There are many people who have fought and conquered the illness with great success. Barb Bergman found out that her daughter was injuring herself by secretly reading her journal. She discovered that her teenage daughter was suffering greatly because she saw how her father was mistreating her mother. She injured herself by scratching herself with sharp objects to “make the pain go away”. After counseling, Barb’s daughter has stopped injuring herself.

Then, there’s the story of Kiley who started hurting herself when she was a junior at high school. The catalyst was an emotional breakup with her boyfriend. Kiley started using a needle to poke herself but later used razorblades to cut her body. When her mother found out, she went for counseling and she’s all clean now. There are many emotional stories that few have been brave enough to share for the hopes that they may help others. Here are just a few:

  • Barbara’s Story: A mother tells the story of how her daughter was injuring herself.
  • Kiley: The story of Kiley who harmed herself when she’s confronted with emotional hurts in her life.
  • Amber: A high school junior who cut herself because she’s suffering from depression and frustration.
  • Laura: Here’s a 21 year-old girl who cut herself because she has low self esteem.
  • In Pictures: A 16 year old girl posts pictures of her self-injury in a video.