Helping Give Away Psychological Science/Resources/Non Suicidal Self Injury

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This page brings together information and resources for dealing with non suicidal self harm. For information regarding suicidal behavior, visit our second page. This page was curated by Helping Give Away Psychological Science, a non-profit focused on dissemination and connecting people to resources from which they could greatly benefit.

What is Non Suicidal Self Injury?[edit | edit source]

Self-Injurious Thoughts and Behaviors[1][edit | edit source]

  1. Suicidal self-injurious thoughts (suicidal ideation): thoughts about killing oneself and can include making suicide plans
  2. Suicidal self-injurious behaviors (suicidal attempts): behaviors that are harmful to oneself and can lead to injury, in which a child or teen wants to die
  3. Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI): injuries caused by oneself but a child or adolescent has no wish to die. The most common forms are skin cutting, burning, scratching, and banging/hitting oneself. These NSSIs are often used to make oneself feel better or to stop the feelings of sadness, anger, and anxiety

Non-Suicidal Self Injury (NSSI)[edit | edit source]

NSSI is deliberate but excludes suicidal intent. It does not matter how it’s done but matters more with the intention the individual has when doing it. NSSI can mirror a suicidal gesture, which can scare and confuse others especially when others do not know what it truly means. This makes it important to assess the why of the injuries and the what. Cutting is the most common and most documented form of how people harm themselves, but there are more forms of self-injury than what has been found in research.[2]

How is NSSI Related to Suicide?[edit | edit source]

  1. People who exhibit NSSI are at higher risk for a suicide attempt
  2. About 10% who injured themselves in the last 4 weeks made a suicide attempt in the last year, and 60% had suicidal thoughts
  3. Don’t assume people who self harm are suicidal, the only way to know is to ask them directly

For more information visit:

Why People Engage in NSSI[edit | edit source]

NSSI is used to cope with negative emotions and self-critical thoughts. People may self-harm to distract or process negative feelings, to feel something physical, gain self-control over their lives, express emotions they are uncomfortable sharing[3]. Some common reasons for self-harm include:

  • To manage painful feelings (57%)
  • To punish oneself (25%)
  • To communicate with others (6%)
  • Other (58%)

Recognizing NSSI[edit | edit source]

Common Types of Self-Injury[edit | edit source]

Symptoms to Look Out For[4][edit | edit source]

Physical Warning Signs[edit | edit source]

  • Scars
  • Fresh cuts, burns or bruises

Behavioral Warning Signs[edit | edit source]

  • wearing long sleeves/pants in hot weather
  • having sharp objects on them or hiding sharp objects
  • emotional/behavioral instability
  • impulsiveness

How to Help Someone Who is Self-Injuring[edit | edit source]

What to Do When Someone Self Harms[edit | edit source]

How to Talk to Someone Self-Harming[edit | edit source]

What to Say[edit | edit source]
  1. Express concern and listen
  2. Give support and reassurance
  3. Encourage them to seek help
What NOT to Say[edit | edit source]
  1. Don't minimize the person's feelings or problems
  2. Don't try to solve the persons problems for them
  3. Don't accuse them of attention seeking
  4. Don't make them feel guilty
  5. Don’t set goals or pacts to entice them to stop

For more information visit:

Coping with NSSI[edit | edit source]

Breaking the Habit of Self-Harming[5][edit | edit source]

  • Identify why you are harming yourself
  • Find other ways of expressing the emotion/having the  physical sensation
    • Such as through forms of exercise or writing/journaling
  • Identify the underlying emotions driving you to self-harm
  • Talk to someone you trust  for support
  • Seek professional help

Therapy Options[edit | edit source]

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy[6]
    • Evidence-based treatment originally developed for suicidal, multi-problem adolescents. It includes 5 functions: Weekly multi-family skills, weekly individual DBT therapy, inter-session coaching via telephone/text, family therapy/parenting sessions, therapist consultation team
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)[7]
    • These are usually short-term treatments that focus on teaching youth and/or their parents specific skills.
    • There’s different types of CBT including:
      • CBT with Parents
      • Group CBT
      • Individual CBT
      • CBT with Medication
      • Trauma-focused CBT
      • CBT paired with Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)
      • CBT Paired with Motivational Enhancement Treatment and Family-based Behavioral Treatment
  • Integrated Family Therapy[8]
    • This is a form of treatment that views psychological problems and their treatment in terms of the interactions among family member
  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy[9]
    • This is a short-term treatment that is effective in treating depression in children. It’s based on the idea that depression occurs in the context of an individual’s relationships, regardless of its origins in biology or genetics.
    • Typically a 12-16 week treatment

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Self-Injurious Thoughts & Behaviors". Effective Child Therapy. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  2. "The Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery". Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  3. "Self-Harm". Crisis Text Line. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  4. "Self-Harm". Crisis Text Line. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  5. "Self-Harm". Crisis Text Line. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  6. "Dialectical Behavior Therapy". Effective Child Therapy. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  7. "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy". Effective Child Therapy. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  8. "MDFT - What is MDFT?". Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  9. "Interpersonal Psychotherapy". Effective Child Therapy. Retrieved 2021-04-08.