There's no one single or simple cause that leads someone to self-injure. In general, self-injury is usually the result of an inability to cope in healthy ways with psychological pain related to issues of personal identity and having difficulty "finding one's place" in family and society. The person has a hard time regulating, expressing or understanding emotions. The mix of emotions that triggers self-injury is complex. For instance, there may be feelings of worthlessness, loneliness, panic, anger, guilt, rejection, self-hatred or confused sexuality.

Through self-injury, the person may be trying to:

  • Manage or reduce severe distress or anxiety and provide a sense of relief
  • Provide a distraction from painful emotions through physical pain
  • Feel a sense of control over his or her body, feelings or life situations
  • Feel something, anything, even if it's physical pain, when feeling emotionally empty
  • Express internal feelings in an external way
  • Communicate depression or distressful feelings to the outside world
  • Be punished for perceived faults
Dec. 06, 2012