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Nonsuicidal Self-injury


Nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) is also known as self-mutilation. NSSI means causing harm to yourself without wanting to commit suicide. Your child may use the behavior as a way to relieve stress, emotional pain, or to gain attention. He may use it to avoid unwanted feelings or to rebel. NSSI may occur with a mental health condition, such as depression or psychosis. NSSI usually begins during puberty and may last into adulthood. Some adolescents grow out of the behaviors. Some may develop Borderline Personality Disorder as adults. Some may eventually attempt suicide.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your child shares feelings or thoughts of suicide.
  • Your child has bleeding that does not stop within 10 minutes of holding pressure on the site.
  • Your child is unconscious or has a seizure.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if you notice an increase in the following behaviors:

  • Cutting or carving into skin
  • Burning or branding skin
  • Picking or pulling skin and hair
  • Scratching or rubbing skin until it comes off
  • Head banging, or biting or hitting himself
  • Excessive body piercing or tattooing

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

He may need to refer your child to a mental health professional. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Talk with your child and listen to his feelings:

Encourage your child to talk about his feelings with you.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.