Self-Injury: Not “Just a Teen Thing”

Self-Injury: NOT "Just a Teen Thing" | >> Click to Read!*TRIGGER WARNING: This blog post may contain triggers surrounding self-injury.

The first time I turned to self-injury was in middle school. But as an adult going through the most painful time of my life, I returned to it. Self-injury was familiar, so I kept turning to it. Eventually it became a go-to coping tool and perhaps even its own addiction. When sober, I’d find discreet bodily locations to inflict injury. But when drinking, I didn’t think that far ahead. Thus the scars on my arms.

This craving to self-injure is something I still battle from time-to-time. I usually win. But ever once in a while, I find myself under that familiar shroud of secrecy. While there’s something comforting about it, it’s also humiliating. When I do succumb to these cravings, which is thankfully rare these days, I feel a great deal of shame. It’s indescribable really. Even though I’m completely alone and no one else knows, I know.

My biggest trigger? Bipolar mixed states. What’s yours?


A common myth surrounding self-injury is that it’s “a teen thing” and that people outgrow it. Other common myths are that only women self-injure and that people who self-injure are suicidal or seeking attention.

What Is Self-Injury?

Self-injury is a deliberate non-suicidal coping strategy that involves inflicting physical injury upon the body. It takes on many different forms. People turn to this coping tool for various reasons. One is to cope with intense, emotional pain. Another is to ground one’s self when feeling numb.

Self-injury is mostly done in secrecy and injuries are often carefully placed to keep them hidden. It’s rarely attention-seeking behavior, although sometimes self-injury can be a cry for help. So it should never be ignored or minimized.

Self-injury does not discriminate. It affects every age, sex, gender & societal class. A myth is that it is a “young people’s problem.” I can attest, it is not.

Self-Injury: NOT "Just a Teen Thing" | >> Click to Read!Fight Self-Injury!

It’s important to note that self-injury is a coping tool, it’s just not a self-serving one. This means that it’s being used to cope with painful emotions in which one is struggling to deal with otherwise. It could signal an underlying & contributing issue that needs to be addressed, such as a mental illness. My experience has been that those issues must be addressed before one can expect to be completely self-injury-free.

Additionally, alternative coping strategies must be learned and a support system put in place. It can absolutely be done! Relapses may, and likely will, occur. But that’s okay. It does not mean you have failed. Just the opposite actually. Every time you dust yourself off and start again strengthens you. You become better equipped to handle the next intense urge or trigger. Keep battling. You’re stronger and more courageous than you may realize.

Self-Injury Awareness Day {SIAD}

Recognized on March 1st every year. It’s an annual, global campaign. The awareness ribbon is orange. Visit LifeSigns (Self Injury Guidance & Network Support) for support, resources, and to see how you can get involved. Also join their forum for anonymous, 24-hour peer support.

Self-Injury Awareness Twibbon

Add an orange ribbon to your Twitter and Facebook profile photos to spread awareness. >> Click Here!

The Butterfly Project

A coping tool for people who use cutting as a means to cope. It’s run by an anonymous Tumblr account. The basic “rules” are that anytime you think you may cut, you draw a butterfly on your wrist. The goal is to allow the butterfly to fade away on its own, rather than “killing it.” That is, cutting. This Tumblr page also accepts anonymous submissions, which it posts on its front page. You definitely leave the site feeling less alone.

SIOS (Self-Injury Outreach & Support)

SIOS is part of a collaboration between the University of Guelph and McGill University. It’s a non-profit outreach initiative that provides information and resources to those who self-injure, those who have recovered, and those who want to help.

S.A.F.E. Alternatives

Provides educational resources, support and treatment options. Information Line: 1-800-DontCut (366-8288)

Do you have any helpful self-injury resources to share? Please share them in the comments!



  1. Another powerful post, Krista. It is so awesome that you put yourself out there like this to bring these issues to light so hopefully just one person can get help.

    I love the Butterfly Project concept.

    1. Thanks so much Audrey, that’s exactly how I view it. If there’s a chance that this information might help just one person, then it’s worth sharing to me! I appreciate all of your support on Twitter! You’re kind of a rock star in my book, I’m trying to figure out how to start another blog while struggling to run one! Good grief! I don’t know how you make it look so simple! You have two great blogs! Thanks for visiting and taking the time to leave a comment. -Krista

  2. Rick Dunn

    Regarding your post on Lamictal. I have been diagnosed with bipolar 1 for 44 years. Took lamictal for over 10 years with no problems. Also work as a physician’s assistant in psychiatry and frequently prescribed lamictal what I found to be well tolerated in almost all cases. I do remember however one patient in her fifties who did become educated and aggressive after starting lamictal. This is definitely more of the exception and the rule but you are very right in that we all react differently to these chemicals that we are putting into our bodies. Sounds like lamictal has been helpful for you which I’m glad this year and hope that continues. Rick.

    1. Thanks Rick. I’d be scared to see what would happen if I didn’t take Lamictal at this point. Which is kind of sad really. But it is what it is. I hope you are well. Thanks for your kind words and wisdom. And thanks for visiting. Hope to see you again soon! -Krista

  3. I once asked my psychologist why I never really needed to be hospitalized when many of my online acquaintances had or were going through it. He attributed it to the resilience I got from self harming. Although he certainly wasn’t condoning it, he felt it was my way of maintaining some semblance in control in my life…I’m one messed up chick.

    1. Sandra, I’ve come to realize that we’re all messed up. Even those of us who don’t technically have a mental illness. The way I see it? We’re winning because we’re willing to acknowledge it and seek help. But that is an interesting concept, that self-harming gave you that great of a sense of control. I feel like the control I gain from it is so short-lived. It really isn’t an effective coping tool for me anymore, but I suppose habits die hard. And in difficult times, I still turn to it. Rarely, but it happens from time-to-time.

      Thanks for visiting =-)

  4. Laura Tolley Brown

    It’s been awhile since I cut myself, but when my husband and I have arguments, I have to dig my nails in the back of my knees to concentrate on the physical pain rather than my mental pain. I’m not proud of this, but it’s better than scratching my arms like I used to.

    1. Arguments with my husband are a trigger for me too. But sometimes I get all spiteful and think, “I’m not going to allow him to have that much power over me. I’m not going to allow someone else to push me to cut myself.” -Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But I thought I’d share because it is all about perspective. And it seems that you have a pretty positive one =-) Thanks for stopping by! -Krista

  5. I love this post and your heart for sharing things that are hard to share! I wish I had known before the day was almost over that it was SIAD.

    I recently stated in one of my blog posts that self-injury is not just limited to teens…I also am proof of that. Also, it was something that started in my late teens/early 20’s, went away for many years and came back during a major episode and then again did not return for almost 10 years until I hit my most recent major bipolar depressive episode. I see my most recent scar every day and I feel shame. I feel the burn in my leg from where I must have done some nerve damage many years ago and I feel shame. Yet, at moments, it still sounds enticing. Thank you…what you’re sharing here is so important.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge