Why do people self-injure?

 

People can self-injure for many reasons. The most common reasons for engaging in NSSI are to manage negative emotions and ease unbearable tension, and to punish, or to express anger and hatred towards oneself. People who self-injure can report overwhelming feelings of sadness, anger, and anxiety, and may self-injure to manage these painful emotions.

 

NSSI may allow people to communicate their distress to others and express their need for help, help people to gain a sense of control over their emotions, may distract people from overwhelming and painful emotions, can help people to feel alive and allow them to feel something other than numb, and may prevent people who self-injure from thinking about or attempting suicide. 

 

These short-term consequences of NSSI help to explain why some people continue to self-injure, and are ambivalent at times about stopping NSSI.  It is important to remember that regardless of the reasons for self-injury, people who self-injure do what works to help them through difficult stages or times in their lives.

Short-term consequences

 

In the short-term, although people who self-injure can experience feelings of relief and calm after engaging in self-injury, these feelings are often followed by feelings of shame, anxiety, and guilt. People who self-injure can also  spend time trying to avoid or resist the temptation to self-injure, which can be emotionally draining.

Long-term consequences

In the long term, although most injuries as a result of self-injury are superficial or minor, people who self-injure can have wounds and scars, and can experience infection, blood loss, and nerve damage from these injuries. People who self-injure can also experience ongoing psychological distress, including depression and anxiety.