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Warning signs that a family member or friend is cutting or self-injuring

Because clothing can hide physical injuries, and inner turmoil can be covered up by a seemingly calm disposition, self-injury can be hard to detect. However, there are red flags you can look for (but remember—you don’t have to be sure that you know what’s going on in order to reach out to someone you’re worried about):

Unexplained wounds or scars from cuts, bruises, or burns, usually on the wrists, arms, thighs, or chest. Blood stains on clothing, towels, or bedding; blood-soaked tissues. Sharp objects or cutting instruments, such as razors, knives, needles, glass shards, or bottle caps, in the person’s belongings. Frequent “accidents.” Someone who self-harms may claim to be clumsy or have many mishaps, in order to explain away injuries. Covering up. A person who self-injures may insist on wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather. Needing to be alone for long periods of time, especially in the bedroom or bathroom. Isolation and irritability.

How does cutting and self-harm help?

In their own words

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“It expresses emotional pain or feelings that I’m unable to put into words.

It puts a punctuation mark on what I’m feeling on the inside!”

“It’s a way to have control over my body because I can’t control anything else in my life.”

“I usually feel like I have a black hole in the pit of my stomach, at least if I feel pain it’s better than feeling nothing.”

“I feel relieved and less anxious after I cut. The emotional pain slowly slips away into the physical pain.”

It’s important to acknowledge that self-harm helps you—otherwise you wouldn’t do it.


Some of the ways cutting and self-harming can help include:

Expressing feelings you can’t put into words

Releasing the pain and tension you feel inside

Helping you feel in control

Distracting you from overwhelming emotions or difficult life circumstances

Relieving guilt and punishing yourself

Making you feel alive, or simply feel something, instead of feeling numb


pictureof a girl
Once you better understand why you self-harm,
you can learn ways to stop self-harming, and find
resources that can support you through this struggle.