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Self-harm is a behavior in which one consciously damages one's own body in various ways. The action is considered self-harm when one inflicts a directly visible damage on the body without this being socially, culturally or ritually accepted. It is most common to define self-harm as an act done without suicidal intent, that is, with intent to take one's own life.

Photo: by Majid Rangraz on Unsplash


Self-harm occurs in a context. It is not taken out of thin air in an otherwise harmonious and well-functioning life. There is a story behind starting to hurt oneself. Self-harm is often a physical expression of an inner pain. Many self-harms describe the action as impulsive and immediate. I'm feeling bad, I can not bear to feel this way anymore, and in the next moment I have hurt myself. For many, this is about their relationship to their own inner world.

This impulsivity in the action may also explain why self-harm is so difficult to stop. When the self-harmer has difficulty in identifying the reasoning in advance of the self-harm, it is also difficult to be able to stop the action before it has been completed.

Self-harm can be the victim's language for those who have no words. It expresses the pain in another form. The self-harm expresses a "See what I say!". It is a story and a cry from the inner world of self-harm.


Different types of self-harm

Favazza and Rosenthal divide self-harm into three different categories:


  1. Severe self-harm is associated with life-threatening injuries, which can be castration and / or amputation of body parts. One often sees serious self-harm in connection with psychosis and intoxication.
  2. Stereotype self-harm is associated with the mentally retarded and autistic. People who injure themselves in this way can, for example, pound their heads rhythmically, and the injuries can vary in extent from mild to more severe.
  3. The moderate self-harm is the most common form of self-harm, where one cuts, burns and / or stabs one's own body. The injuries are often not so extensive that medical treatment is needed. It can be difficult to detect this type of self-harm as many people keep the harm hidden.


Reasons for self-harm

The causes of self-harm are often complex, and can be rooted in both psychological, social and cultural conditions. Many self-harmers have problems putting their own feelings into words, and the body is used as a means of communicating with itself and with the outside world. The action is characterized by stigma, and many who injure themselves hide wounds and scars from their surroundings.


Treatment for self-harm

In a case in Large medical encyclopedia it says:

As of today, too little is known about the effect of various forms of treatment for self-harm in adolescents. However, the forms of treatment that appear to reduce self-harm in this patient group are:


  1. Dialectical behavior therapy: to improve emotional skills by changing emotional vulnerability and what triggers emotions in interaction with others.
  2. Mentalization-based therapy: to increase awareness, acknowledge and understand both one's own and others' emotional reactions and motives.

A similar perspective is given in one article in Legetidsskriftet, where it says: 

The knowledge base is currently relatively weak when it comes to the effect of various forms of treatment for self-harm problems in young people. The treatment methods that stand out as promising are dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), mentalization-based therapy (MBT), multisystemic therapy (MST) and form-focused therapy (SFT).



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