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Sullen Girl by Fiona Apple
(Fiona Apple is a rape survivor and has been a self injurer - see Famous Self Injurers)


Self-Injury is deliberately harming oneself as a coping mechanism. It is caused by the emotional stress that the person is incapable, for whatever reason, of dealing with. For these people, Self-Injury is an escape, a way to relieve numbness, and an expression of pain.

Warning Signs:  Dysphoria - Experiencing depression, irritability, tension and sensitivity to rejection.

  • Self-hate.
  • Chronic anger or anxiety.
  • Impulsiveness.
  • Unexplainable bruises, cuts or burns.

What to do:

In order to stop the urge to self-injure, therapy is necessary. There are also constructive things one can do when they have the urge to self injure, such as: hitting a punching bag, using a pillow to hit a wall, pillow-fight style, ripping up an old newspaper or phone book, on a sketch or photo of yourself, marking in red ink what you want to do then cutting and tearing the picture, making Play-Doh or Sculpey or other clay models and cutting or smashing them, throwing ice into the bathtub or against a brick wall hard enough to shatter it, breaking sticks. Put a finger into a frozen food (like ice cream) for a minute, biting into a hot pepper or chewing a piece of ginger root, rubbing liniment under your nose, slapping a tabletop hard, snapping your wrist with a rubber band or taking a cold bath.

Support for eating disorders and self-mutilation

How do you know if you self-injure? It may seem an odd question to some, but a few people aren't sure if what they do is "really" self-injury.
Answer these questions:
  1. Do you deliberately cause physical harm to yourself to the extent of causing tissue damage (breaking the skin, bruising, leaving marks that last for more than an hour)?
  2. Do you cause this harm to yourself as a way of dealing with unpleasant or overwhelming emotions, thoughts, or situations (including dissociation)?
  3. If your self-harm is not compulsive, do you often think about SI even when you're relatively calm and not doing it at the moment?

If you answer #1 and #2 yes, you are a self-injurer. If you answer #3 yes, you are most likely a repetitive self-injurer.

The way you choose to hurt yourself could be cutting, hitting, burning, scratching, skin-picking, banging your head, breaking bones, not letting wounds heal, among others. You might do several of these. How you injure yourself isn't as important as recognizing that you do and what it means in your life.

Self-injurious behavior does not necessarily mean you were an abused child. It usually indicates that somewhere along the line, you didn't learn good ways of coping with overwhelming feelings. You're not a disgusting or sick; you just never learned positive ways to deal with your feelings.


Secret Shame

Self-Injury: A Struggle

Inside Pain Turned Inside Out

Self Injury

SIARI ( Self-Injury and Related Issues)

Focus Adolescent Services: Self-Injury

Self-Injury Site: A Healing Touch

Understanding Self Injury

Cutting, Branding & Self Injury

Self Injury Support

American Self-Harm Clearinghouse



"Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.
I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.
Then the almost unnameable lust returns."
~Anne Sexton

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