What Is Self-Harm?

Self-harm is a rising problem in our society. While typically thought of as something that only teenage girls do, reports from mental health professionals have indicated that adolescent males, as well as adult men and women, engage in this behavior as well.

Self-harm, also referred to as cutting, self-injury, or self-mutilation, is the act of intentionally hurting one’s body. This is done through many methods, but the goals of self-harm are nearly always the same: to deal with feelings that are otherwise overwhelming for the individual, or to feel something after long stretches of time of feeling emotionally numb. For those who self-harm, there is usually underlying shame, anger, or depression that fuels the desire to hurt themselves in order to find relief. Unfortunately, self-harm is always more damaging than helpful because it provides only temporarily relief, and the behavior must be repeated in greater intensity and frequency in order to get the same results.

Those who engage in self-harm often do so under a shroud of secrecy and shame. They are embarrassed by their desire to hurt themselves but feel unable to stop. They go to great lengths to hide their behavior from others, including wearing clothes to hide their wounds, harming themselves in places no one will see, and making excuses for any marks that others do notice.

Getting Help

When we are struggling with self-injury – or any other struggle, for that matter – we often rely only on our own strength to find victory. Scripture wants us to take a different approach: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7).” The Lord’s desire is that none of us suffer alone in silence. When we suffer alone, Satan is better able to drag us deeper into unhealthy behavior and to convince us that the Truth of God’s grace and unconditional love are not meant for us. When we cast our hurts, fears, and shame on the Lord, we experience the freedom that comes with knowing that nothing is too bad or too shameful for Him to love us through. By reaching out for help, we open ourselves up to the Lord’s healing and allow Him to place loving, supportive people in our path that can help us without judgment or criticism.

If you or someone you know is struggling with cutting or other self-harming behavior, we encourage you to talk to one of the counselors in our office. We understand that this behavior is damaging and leads to much shame, but we also take comfort in the words of the Apostle Paul, who said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15) It is our prayer that you allow a CU counselor to join you in your battle and help you begin to deal with the events of your past that may contribute to your self-harming behavior.


Inside a Cutter's Mind: Understanding and Helping Those Who Self-Injure by Jerusha Clark

This book is a great resource for those who engage in cutting or want to help someone who does. It includes personal stories and research to teach people healthier ways for handling their emotions.


Cut: Mercy for Self-Harm by Nancy Alcorn

This book details the indicators of self-harming behavior and provides suggestions for ways to break free from these patterns by using personal stories of women who have struggled with self-harm and found healing.


Online Resources

Lysamena Project on Self-Injury

"A compassionate site providing helpful information about self inflicted violence."

- from Lysamena’s website


To Write Love on Her Arms

"To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery."

- from TWLOHA’s website



"S.A.F.E. ALTERNATIVES is a nationally recognized treatment approach, professional network, and educational resource base, which is committed to helping you and others achieve an end to self-injurious behavior."

 - from S.A.F.E.’s website


Self Mutilators Anonymous

"Self Mutilators Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other, that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from physical self-mutilation."

- from Self Mutilators Anonymous’ website