Recognizing Self-Injury

Students may self-injure in a variety of ways, some of which may be very difficult for parents, friends, and educators to detect. Don’t blame yourself if you don’t notice the impossible, but don’t ignore anything you have a question about either. If a student has strangely even cuts on his or her arms, don’t allow, “My cat scratched me” to go unquestioned. You may be the first adult to push for an accurate answer and become a link to support. Rather than present a detailed list of every known type of self-injury being practiced at this time, here are some types of self-injury you may encounter and some general guidelines to follow.

Common forms of self-injury:

  • Cutting in lines on the arms or legs (with razor blades or knives)
  • Repeatedly picking at scabs or other injuries
  • Erasing burns onto any part of the body
  • Using matches or cigarettes to burn the body
  • Hair-pulling
  • Head banging
  • Punching walls or other hard surfaces repeatedly- may also take the form of hitting oneself (look for bruised and/or bloody knuckles)

General guidelines:

  • Trust your instincts- if something seems unusual or out of place, don’t hesitate to ask questions
  • Allow the student to define whether or not the injury was social or stemmed from anxiety or stress or other intrinsic causes