Merck Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

honeypot link
Quick Facts

Nonsuicidal Self-Injury


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Feb 2021| Content last modified Feb 2021
Click here for the Professional Version
Get the full details

What is nonsuicidal self-injury?

Nonsuicidal self-injury is hurting yourself on purpose, without trying to kill yourself. For example, if you cut your skin to hurt but not to kill yourself, that is called a nonsuicidal self-injury—it's not attempted suicide. The most common examples of nonsuicidal self-injury are:

  • Cutting or stabbing your skin with a sharp object (for example, knife, razor blade, needle)

  • Burning your skin (usually with a cigarette)

Nonsuicidal self-injury:

Nonsuicidal self-injuries should be taken seriously. People who injure themselves on purpose are likely to do it again, and may be more likely to attempt or commit suicide.

Why do people injure themselves on purpose?

The reason is not always clear, but self-injury may be a way that people try to:

  • Lower stressful or negative feelings

  • Punish themselves for something they think they did wrong

  • React to relationship problems

  • Get other people to help them

How do doctors treat nonsuicidal self-injury?

Doctors will ask about your injuries and what happened. They’ll take your actions seriously and try to figure out if you might try to kill yourself.

Doctors treat nonsuicidal self-injury with psychotherapy. Two types of psychotherapy used to treat nonsuicidal self-injury are:

  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)—in weekly and individual sessions over the course of a year, the therapist helps you learn how to manage stress

  • Emotion regulation group therapy—helps you become aware of and accept negative emotions

Medicines can help some people. If you have mental health disorders besides nonsuicidal self-injury, doctors will treat those.

It's important to have follow-up doctors’ appointments to make sure the self-injury has stopped.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
Suicidal Behavior and Self-Injury
Others also read
Test your knowledge
Ebola Virus and Marburg Virus Infections
Ebola and Marburg virus infections are extremely serious and frequently fatal. Like other viruses in the class known as filoviruses, Ebola and Marburg infections cause extensive bleeding. Which of the following statements about Ebola and Marburg infections is NOT correct?
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID

Also of Interest

Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID