Signs of Self-Harm in Your Loved One | Mental Health Blog
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Signs of Self-Harm in Your Loved One


Signs of Self-Harm in Your Loved One

Self-harm or self-mutilation is when someone deliberately hurts themselves, but it is different from a suicide attempt.

Self-harm can take many forms and is usually used as a type of emotional release. Those suffering from emotional distress may not know how to properly cope with their emotions, so they turn to self-mutilation. Self-harm may also be the symptom of a mental health disorder like depression, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, or more that requires outpatient or residential mental health care

If you do not engage in self-harm yourself, it can be hard to understand, but it is a more common problem than a lot of people realize. Some estimates suggest that as many as 17-35% of college students, 15% of teenagers, and 4% of adults in the United States engage in self-harm practices.1 

Types of Self-Harm

Self-harm can take many different forms including:

  • Cutting wrists or other areas of the skin  
  • Burning skin
  • Picking at wounds
  • Pulling out hair  
  • Hitting oneself 
  • Banging into or throwing yourself into hard objects 
  • Poking the skin with sharp objects
  • Ingesting poisonous or harmful substances 

Signs & Symptoms of Self-Harm 

Everyone is unique and the self-harm symptoms will vary depending on the individual person. If you believe your loved one is showing signs of self-mutilation, it is important to know for sure so that you can get them help.  

Some common symptoms and signs of self-harm may include:

  • Wearing long sleeves or pants in hot weather to cover scars 
  • Having unexplained injuries or bruises 
  • Appearing to be accident-prone
  • Avoiding people or social situations to hide injuries
  • Organized scar patterns
  • Recurring scars in the same places
  • Lack of personal safety concerns
  • Infected scars or wounds
  • Lying about injuries 
  • Trouble communicating feelings
  • Defensiveness when questioned about injuries

Self-harm could be a symptom of a serious mental illness, and keeping your friend’s scary secret could lead to serious consequences. Getting your loved one into treatment at a mental health facility can help them break this dangerous cycle and begin the healing process. If left untreated, it could escalate into dangerous health problems. For someone with depression, self-harm may even develop into suicidal thoughts or actions. 

If you recognize signs of self-harm in someone you care about, take immediate action. Programs like cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of psychotherapy can teach your loved one how to deal with their emotions in a way that does not involve hurting themselves. Medications for mental health disorders present may also help eliminate symptoms like self-harm. 

Mental illnesses can be debilitating, but there is hope for a better future. If you or someone you love has a mental health problem, get help.

By calling 888-280-4763, you can learn more about our programs at Banyan Mental Health or get started on the admissions process.


  1. JABFM - Nonsuicidal Self-Injury: A Review of Current Research for Family Medicine and Primary Care Physicians

Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.

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