“For me, it was all about control. Over my life, my body, my
Posted on October 03, 2017, 18:01 GMT
The urge to self-harm
uncommon, but, because people often keep their habit a
secret, a lot of people have misconceptions about who does it,
why they do it, or what it means.
To help others better understand self-harm, we asked the BuzzFeed Community what they wished they could
tell people and what misconceptions they wanted to clear up.
By the way: Just because self-harm isn’t uncommon
doesn’t mean it’s a healthy coping mechanism or that recovery
isn’t possible. If you are dealing with the urge to hurt
yourself or have thoughts of suicide, the US National Suicide
Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. A list of
international suicide hotlines can be found here. And if you prefer
to text, you can message the Crisis Text Line by messaging 741741. Lastly,
here is a list of things
that have helped people in the BuzzFeed Community resist the
urge to self-harm.
1. Self-harming is not something people
do ~just for attention~.
“I wish that people knew it was not for attention or to be
edgy. I started self-harming as a teenager as a way to punish
myself. It was never to show off or to seek pity. It was a
private thing that I did because I was feeling so much
emotional pain, I didn’t know how else to express it.”
2. But sometimes, people do it in hopes
of being noticed, and that’s totally valid, too.
“It was a cry for help — the only way I thought people would
actually notice me. Many people who cut themselves hope someone
will notice, so they can actually get the help they need.”
3. Self-harm isn’t just cutting — it’s
any form of hurting yourself on purpose.
“Cutting is the most well-known type of self-harm, but there
are a lot of ways to hurt yourself. Some things leave a mark
and some don’t, but they’re all legitimate and serious forms of
4. It’s a coping mechanism for various
experiences of mental illness, trauma, and abuse, not just
“I feel like the media portrays self-injury as a symptom of
depression. This is true for some self-injurers, but it’s
important to remember that people self-harm for a variety of
5. And it doesn’t mean a person is
suicidal — although it can.
“Self-harm is categorized by psychologists as NSSI, or
non-suicidal self-injury. This means that self-harm, by
definition, is not done with death in mind. Someone who is
suicidal can self-harm instead of attempting suicide, along
with a suicide attempt, or before resorting to suicide, but
self-harm in and of itself is not a suicide attempt.”
7. Or feeling something physical when
otherwise everything is numb.
“There comes a point where everything you’ve ever been through
accumulates to a point where it’s entirely numbing. With this
comes the sick mindset that the only way you can feel anything
is by hurting yourself.”
8. For some people, it provides temporary
relief when their feelings are overwhelming.
“Personally, I would cut myself whenever I was feeling too
MUCH. Be it sadness or frustration or anxiety or self-loathing.
It was a way to quiet everything in my head down and focus on
9. For others, it’s about physically
manifesting the emotional pain they’re dealing with.
“People who self-harm generally use the physical pain that
comes with whatever ritual they’ve chosen as a way to
physically SEE their pain. It always made my emotional pains
more bearable because seeing blood made my mental anguish feel
11. But there’s also no such thing as
being “too young” to have the urge.
“I was hospitalized for self-harm and being suicidal when I was
only 12. I was the youngest person there. Even other patients,
ranging from 13-17 would say, ‘You’re too young for this!’ I’m
not. The urge to harm yourself can come at any time, and I wish
people knew that. Depression and anxiety can come at any age.
No one is too young to have their lives affected by it.”
12. In fact, there is no single type of
person who self-harms, and you probably know someone who
“I think there is this misconception that people who self harm
are very goth and shop at Hot Topic, and are fascinated by
blood or gore. But we tend to look pretty normal, with normal
jobs, and all different kinds of tastes, opinions, and
feelings. We probably look like the person next door, your
coworker at your office job, your babysitter, your boss.
Self-harm doesn’t discriminate.”
13. For a lot of people, it’s addictive,
so it’s not as easy as “just stopping.”
“Self-harm is an addiction, like smoking. It is not easy to
quit. It requires hard work, a good support system, and a
positive outlet for feelings. In some ways it may be harder to
overcome than other addictions because it is generally a lot
more private and many people don’t know that you are
14. And recovery for self-harming behavior
isn’t linear. For some, the urge never quite goes away.
“I can go months without the urge to self-harm, and then have a
relapse moment. The important thing to remind yourself of in
those moments is that this moment doesn’t negate the moments of
recovery you had prior to it.”
16. If you want to ask about or comment on
someone else’s scars, cuts, burn marks, bruises, whatever,
“I know you just want to help me, but that just draws attention
to them when all I want to do is forget I have them. Resist the
urge to make any sort of mention of my scars because it’s taken
months for me to gain the self-confidence to wear short
sleeves, and the last thing I want is for people to draw
attention to my scars.”
17. That said, if you are genuinely
worried about someone and want to check in, make sure you bring
it up with them privately.
“For me, self-harm was about trying to receive help, so I
wanted people to notice. It’s okay to ask and check in,
as long as you’re not calling it out casually or in front of
18. Joking about self-harm is pretty much
“Don’t make jokes about cutting because you don’t know whether
someone has done it, and they could take it seriously. I don’t
like when people make jokes about it. It’s not funny.”
19. If you’ve seen self-harm depicted in
the media, chances are it’s been inappropriately
“Self-harm should not be romanticized. It’s not pretty sobbing
in the bath tub with blood circling the drain. It’s not
beautifully tragic to use a tape dispenser edge to cut
yourself. It’s not ‘cool’ having your family members find razor
pieces hidden throughout your room.”
20. You might feel angry when you find out
someone you love has been hurting themselves, but try to
control that response.
“If you find someone who has been self-harming, don’t get mad
at them! It doesn’t help anything. Yes, seeing them do that can
hurt you as a friend or family member, but imagine what they
have to deal with in order to resort to that. Don’t ask them,
‘How could you do that to us? I thought you loved us. If you
did, you wouldn’t do this to yourself.’ Because guess what?
That has probably crossed our minds and we don’t need that.”
22. Just because a person self-harms
doesn’t mean they’re not also actively trying to get better and
develop healthier coping mechanisms.
“I have a therapist, I take medication, and I have better days.
But then, I have shitty days.”
23. And lastly, people who self-harm, or
who have self-harmed in the past, aren’t weak.
“I wish people would stop thinking self-harm is a sign of
weakness. People who self-harm are not weak. They have just
been strong for too long.”
To learn more about
self-harm, check out the resources at the National Alliance on
Mental Illness here.
And again, if you need to talk to someone immediately, you can
find resources at the top of this post.