Understanding Nonsuicidal Self-Injury

Clearing up some of the myths about self-harm

Photo by Uriel SC on Unsplash

A common misconception is that self-injury is a female issue, but NSSI is only slightly more common in females than males.

Females tend to start younger and self-injure longer. In terms of method, females are more likely to cut, while males are more likely to punch/hit or burn themselves. There’s an elevated risk in transgender and bisexual youth and young adults. Being homosexual doesn’t appear to have a large impact on risk, but the elevated risk among bisexuals has been consistently demonstrated, although the reason is unclear.

Suicide isn’t typically on people’s minds while self-injuring, but they are at increased risk of suicide overall, and often have comorbid conditions that also increase their risk.

With NSSI, there appears to be an increase in the risk of suicidality up until around 50 lifetime self-injury episodes, at which point the risk levels off and then starts to drop closer to population norms. When people with a history of NSSI are suicidal, there may be less reluctance to try more lethal methods because of previous self-injury.


Mental health blogger | Former MH nurse | Living with depression | Author of 4books, latest is A Brief History of Stigma| mentalhealthathome.org