Saturday, November 5, 2011

Self harm

This was sent to me today by a self harmer who did this to her leg.

Self harm

It catches the emotional core of the Borderline personality. A mixture of anger and fear.

She makes an interesting distinction between ‘playing” self harm and ‘punishing’ self harm. This is playing self harm where the cuts a quite superficial but with punishment self harm the cuts are significantly deeper. And it is the bleeding that has the most psychological significance.


In my book - Working with suicidal individuals - I propose 8 possible motivations for self harming:

1. Self harming as part of gang tattooing behaviour.
2. Self harming to make self feel real which can be found in those who dissociate.
3. Self harming to make self feel something.
4. Self harming used as a means of tension relief and to release pressure build up.
5. Self harming as a physical expression of emotional pain. Self harming is seen as providing concrete evidence of the pain.
6. Self harming as a means to self nurture. It allows the person to care for self as can be found in Munchausen Syndrome.
7. Self harming as a means to punish self and an expression of self hatred.
8. Self harming as a means to manipulate others or as a cry for help.

It would seem that reason number 7 is part of the motivation to self harm. As for seeing the blood and bleeding one would need to enquire as to what it means for the self harmer. It could be a variety of things such as found in reasons # 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6.



  1. I agree with your reasons. I self harm and I've been unable to stop. I think you should add one more cause though- because along with many others, one of my main reasons is matching the scars inside, with scars on the outside...

  2. Thanks for your comment Anon.

    It is an interesting perspective of matching scars, and I also note the addictive quality that you report

  3. I was going through some of the old postings and happened upon this one. Those scars are long gone, faded and covered by new ones.

  4. OK Annalynn, I guess that happens old fade and new arrive.