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  • Asha M. Creary

Nonsuicidal Self-Injury Disorder (Self-Harming Behaviors)

There has been a growing pandemic of self-harming. March 1, 2021 is Self-Injury Awareness Day. About 17% of all people will self-harm in their lifetime. The average age of the first time of self-harming incidents is the age of 13. About 45% of people use cutting as their method of self-injury. Only 50% of people with active self-harming behaviors seek professional help from professionals.



There are so many individuals who have an increased risk-factors. Those that are more likely to self-harm includes having friends/family who self-harm, socially isolated people and those struggling with drug/alcohol addiction. Others who have increased risk factors include those who struggle with mental health conditions including depression, anxiety and personality disorders and those who are exposed to traumatic events, family instability & sexual identity issues.






There are several diagnostic criteria for identifying someone who is self-harming. The correct term is Nonsuicidal Self-Injury Disorder or NSSID. It is not listed in the DSM-V as a diagnosable mental health condition as of yet and it currently under further study. Symptoms include engaging in self-harm five or more days over the last year, self-injuring to gain relief from unwanted feeling or seeking attention and it involves an unwanted feeling like depression, anxiety or anger as the focus of their thoughts/attention.


Self-harm is typically seen with co-occurring disorders like depression, anxiety, substance use and eating disorders. The act of self-injury is different that suicide attempts but there has been mentioned to be a strong association between self-injury and suicide attempts.



Self-injurious behaviors are typically treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy and behavior modification treatment. In some cases, medication is used to reduce self-harming behaviors. The best way to help ensure that someone who self-harms is safe is to remove access from tools used to self-harm, communicating with them when triggered and supporting them with a positive alternative to their self-harm. If you have access, please seek help from a clinician or physician who can help cope or reduce symptoms.

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