20 Warning signs of Self-harm

There are quite a few misconceptions regarding self-harm, one of which being the idea that self-harm is for attention. However, the majority of individuals who self-harm will go to great lengths to hide their struggles. For this reason, I feel that it is important to share some of the warning signs that someone is self-harming because many individuals will not know what to look for. This list is based on my own experiences with self-harm and the common warning signs that my friends saw in me. My family still does not know about my struggles with self-harm; however, if someone gave them this list I’m sure a lot of things would start to make sense. So, if you suspect someone you know is self-harming, here are some things you can look for:

  1. Unexplained cuts (often in a linear/parallel pattern), bruises, burns, or broken bones
  2. Unexplained groupings of scars
  3. Numerous scars/cuts/wounds in different stages of the healing process (often multiple wounds appearing in groupings on the wrist, arms, thighs, hips, and/or abdomen)
  4. A collection of sharp objects that are kept well hidden
  5. A collection of first aid supplies (alcohol wipes, bandages, gauze, etc.) which seem to deplete quickly/require refilling frequently
  6. Refusal to wear clothing that reveals certain parts of the body
  7. Always wearing long sleeves/pants, even in warm weather
  8. Always wearing a large number of bracelets which conceal wrists
  9. Wearing a wrist support/brace frequently without an explanation for how the “sprain” occurred
  10. Reacting strongly to questions about the wounds (sensitive to casual remarks)
  11. Frequently having blood-stained tissues in the bathroom or bedroom garbage can
  12. Frequently having blood stains on clothing or bedding
  13. Being secretive
  14. Keeping a certain drawer or box locked and/or hidden (often used to hide razors, knives, and other sharp objects)
  15. Frequently looking up self-harm online (ie. Self-harm sites appearing in search history)
  16. Reading books about self-harm (this one isn’t necessarily a warning sign, but it is quite common among individuals who self-injure)
  17. An apparent lack of coping mechanisms during high stress periods
  18. Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, and other mental illness (often self-harm co-occurs with other mental health problems)
  19. Feelings of hopelessness, unhappiness, or sadness
  20. Carrying unnecessary sharp objects in their everyday belongings (ie. Keeping a blade, lighter, or other SH tool in a purse or backpack)

It is also really important to recognize that if someone you know is actually self-harming in some way, you need to have an open mind. If you judge them or react with anger or hostility, they are not going to be open and honest with you. You want the person to know that you are there to help and that you are not going to judge them. The biggest reason that I have not confided in my own parents about my self-harm is because I know them well enough to know that they would not understand, they would be angry, and they would try to over-monitor me to stop me from cutting.

It’s really important for people to know that self-harm is an addiction and it is very difficult to just stop cold-turkey. Just like any other addiction, it takes time to recover. It will take a lot of support, love, and time for anyone to recover from self-injury, especially if they have been doing it for a long time.

Please, if you know someone who is self-harming be supportive. Do not judge them. Let them know that you are there to help and that you will help them find the support that they need. One of the best things that happened for me occurred when one of my close friends found out and encouraged me to start seeing a therapist. It took him 2 months of gentle coaxing to get me to go, but finally I did and things have definitely gotten better. Even though i’ve recently relapsed, I know that recovery is possible with the right support system. I went 47 days self-harm free and I know I can do it again.

Stay strong ❤




5 thoughts on “20 Warning signs of Self-harm

  1. deepbluesandseafoamgreens says:

    Really helpful post 🙂 you’re right, it does take time to recover (I’m recovering). Thank you so much for sharing

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