A Look at 3 Common Stereotypes of NSSI

Non-Suicidal Self-injury (NSSI), is common with all age groups, however, research shows it is alarming common amongst young children.

Hearing that really opened my eyes, and made me want to study about it, and bring awareness to this serious subject that is continuing to affect kids of this generation. If you have never heard of NSSI, it is when somebody intentionally damages or injure their body, to temporarily make them feel better. As crazy as that may sound, the idea of purposely inflicting injury to oneself as a coping mechanism, seems very counterintuitive to most of us. The reality is, it is happening and we all need to be educated on breaking down some of the most common stereotypes surrounding NSSI.

“Hush little baby, Dont you cry, Dont cut your arms, Dont say goodbye. Put down that razor, Put down that light, It maybe hard but, You’ll win this fight.” – Emily Giffin


There are already many negative stereotypes regarding mental health due to a lack of understanding, and this has led to a strong social stigma about mental illness. But most don’t realize the negative effect it has on the lives of people living with mental health problems. So let’s discuss some of the stereotypes and myths attached to self-harm/self-injury, and NSSI in particular.

Myth #1: Individuals who hurt themselves purposely are actually trying to kill themselves, even if they deny it.

Although both suicide and NSSI involve intentional injury to oneself, they are distinct behaviors. By its very definition, the term NSSI describes the intentional injury of one’s own body tissue without suicidal intent. Generally, they are trying to cope with difficult feelings or circumstances they may be dealing with in their lives, and is sometimes referred to as,“Emotion Regulation Strategy”.

However, research has shown that history of self-injury without suicidal intent is a key risk factor for attempted suicide, and visa-versa, a large number of people with a history of suicide attempts also reported a history of non-suicidal self-injury. Although the behaviors are distinct, the link between them further emphasizes the need to address NSSI.

“people say things meant to rip you in half but you hold the power to not turn their words into a knife and cut yourself” – Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey


Myth #2: Women are usually at risk for this behavior than men.

This is simply not true! Rates of NSSI, are actually similar between men and women. Research shows when looking at cases of self-harm/self-injury, the split between men and women is usually 50/50. The way the exhibit NSSI, may be different, but both are equally likely to hurt themselves in some way. Studies show that women are more likely to cut and scratch, and men are more likely to burn themselves. How you hurt yourself is no different, and both men and women need to get help.

Myth #3: When people say NSSI, you mean they are cutting themselves.

Growing up we may have heard of someone cutting themselves, and was looked at as the most common behavior of course, but actually, recent studies show that scratching and skin-picking may be as common as, if not more common than cutting.

Generally when people hear or talk about NSSI, they automatically only think of or consider cutting and burning as self-harm/self-injury. However, there are many other ways to inflict physical harm. Other common behaviors include picking at the skin or scabs, biting, self-hitting or banging their head on something, which can also lead to cognitive damage and issues.

“I can feel the hurt. There’s something good about it. Mostly it makes me stop remembering.”
 Albert BorrisCrash Into Me


Given the significant negative consequences associated with NSSI, like scarring, infection, increased risk of self-injury, depression, anxiety, and shame, it is essential that we correct these myths. Only by educating ourselves about NSSI will we be able to prevent misdiagnosis and make sure that our friend, coworker, brother, mother, or child gets the treatment that he or she really needs.

If you or someone you know needs help, use the information below.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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