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Nonsuicidal Self-Injury


What do I need to know about 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.

What increases the risk for NSSI?

  • Negative feelings or thoughts about himself
  • Anxiety or guilt, low self-esteem, or long-term illness
  • Sexual, physical, or emotional abuse
  • Living with a family member who is an alcoholic or has mental illness, or other health conditions
  • Need for attention, or acting without thinking

What are some common self-injury 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

What should I do if I notice any self-injury behaviors?

  • Contact your child's healthcare provider. He may need to refer your child to a mental health professional.
  • Talk with your child and listen to his feelings.

Seek immediate care for any of the following:

  • 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.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.