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Nonsuicidal Self-Injury in Children and Adolescents


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Nov 2020| Content last modified Nov 2020
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What is nonsuicidal self-injury?

Nonsuicidal self-injury is when adults or children:

  • Hurt themselves in ways that clearly aren't meant to cause death, such as scratching, cutting, or burning themselves

Children who hurt themselves:

  • Are usually teens

  • May also abuse drugs or alcohol

  • Aren't trying to kill themselves, although some later do try to commit suicide

  • May be helped by therapy that helps them find other ways to manage their emotions and stress

What causes children to hurt themselves?

Children and teens who hurt themselves may be doing it to:

  • Punish themselves

  • Get attention

  • Try to get help

  • Manage anger or stress

In some high schools, hurting yourself suddenly becomes a fad.

Although the behavior isn't necessarily suicidal, some children are at increased risk of suicide. Those at increased risk include children who:

  • Hurt themselves a lot

  • Use several methods of hurting themselves

  • Talk about suicide or have suicidal thoughts

How can I help children who are hurting themselves?

Because it's hard to tell which children are at risk of suicide, those who injure themselves should see a doctor who specializes in the problems of children and teens. Doctors will assess the risk of suicide and come up with a treatment plan.

How do doctors treat children who hurt themselves?

Doctors treat children who hurt themselves with:

  • Therapy

  • Sometimes, medicine

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
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