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The urge to self-harm is not uncommon, especially in adolescents and teenagers. Once self-injury, including cutting and self-mutilation, begins, intervention is needed to prevent a pattern of ongoing self-harm behaviors from becoming normalized. Although self-injury is more common in women, self-harm scars can be seen on men as well.

What Is Self-Harm?

Self-harm or self-injury is when a person hurts themselves on purpose, usually as a sign of emotional distress. In many cases, self-harm triggers include psychological pain from past trauma. Thus, self-mutilation is often an attempt to relieve psychic hurt by replacing it with physical pain. Self-harming behaviors can be associated with borderline personality disorder, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Cutting that leads to self-harm scars is the most common type of self-injury. However, teens may commit other forms of self-harm. For example, they may feel an impulse to burn their skin, pull out their hair (trichotillomania), or pick at open wounds to prevent healing.

Rather than being defined as a mental illness, self-harm is a maladaptive behavior resulting from a lack of healthy coping skills. Therefore, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and other therapeutic approaches can address the underlying causes of self-mutilation. Consequently, teens gain recovery tools to overcome self-harm triggers.

Sources: National Alliance on Mental IllnessPsychology TodayMedlinePlus