Before we get into lesser known forms of self-harm, let’s clarify the talked-about ones.
If you are doing any of the following, you are a self harmer:
cutting yourself or carving things into your skin
burning yourself with fire or chemicals
rubbing your skin to make ‘friction burns’
hitting or punching yourself
purposely bruising yourself.
Photo by Markus Spiske
9 Lesser known ways to self-harm
1. Hitting your body against other things.
You might not directly hit yourself. But if have a habit ofpunching brick walls that you know will damage your hands, or body slamming yourself into something with the intent of bruising your body and causing yourselfpain? Then it’s self-harm.
2. Hitting your head against a wall.
In children head-hitting is related to other conditions, like ‘rhythmic disorder’ and self soothing.
But if you are a teen or adult banging your head against the wall with the intent to hurt yourself, it is self-harm.
Trichotillimania, or hair pulling disorder, is seen as different than self-harm. Sufferers don’t have the intent to hurt themselves, they have a compulsion to pull their hair, and can not always realise they are doing it.
But if you set out to cause yourself pain by pulling out your hair, and if it’s part of your repertoire of other things you do to hurt yourself? It would be self-harm.
4. Excessive tweezing of hairs.
This is usuallytrichotillimania, not self-harm. But it’s possible to use tweezers to purposely hurt yourself and pull incorrectly to cause scabbing. If that is your intention, it’s self-harm.
5. Skin picking.
Again, this can be more an anxiety-based habit. If you realise you are doing it half way through, then it’s not self-harm as you didn’t intend to hurt yourself.
But if when you are upset you intentionally seek out any scabs oracne to aggressively pick at? And consciously choose to pick until it hurts and you are bleeding? You are self harming.
6. Self poisoning.
If it damages inner tissue, then it’s also self-harm. So if you are intentionally ingesting medication, alcohol, or toxic substances with the purpose of making yourself sick, it’s self harm. And it’s also really dangerous. It can result in liver damage or even death.
7. Making someone else hurt you.
It’s not self harm because you are not doing it, right? Wrong. If you plan it and then push the other person to hurt you, then you ARE doing it, just using another person’s hands. It’s still your intention that is the driving force.
8. Having sex you don’t really want.
Some people might say this isn’t self-harm as it doesn’t damage your body tissues.
But in fact it does. Self-harming sex is usually unprotected (the person chooses dangerous behaviour) and can lead to STIs and infections, or the physical trauma of continuous abortions.
Secondly, it can involve purposely choosing to have sex that causes pain, such as a women having sex without being ready, or a man having sex even when he is raw and sore.
This is a very hidden and yet possibly lethal form of self-harm. It can be as extreme as not drinking water for several days, or making yourself go out into cold conditions without proper clothes.
What do I do if this is me?
Self-harm is not to be taken lightly. If you are self-harming, it’s essential to seek support of some kind. If you have nobody to talk to, consider calling a free mental health help line (use our list of free UK helplines). The volunteers are happy to talk to you and won’t judge you.
And if you can, find a counsellor or psychotherapist. They can help you dig deep and process the upsetting experiences leading you to hurt yourself, and can also work with you to find new ways to cope.