Self-injury: You are NOT the only one

Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.
I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.
Then the almost unnameable lust returns.
--Anne Sexton
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In spite of the title, there is no shame here. If you cause physical harm to your body in order to deal with overwhelming feelings, know that you have nothing to be ashamed of. It's likely that you're keeping yourself alive and maintaining psychological integrity with the only tool you have right now. It's a crude and ultimately self-destructive tool, but it works; you get relief from the overwhelming pain/fear/anxiety in your life. The prospect of giving it up may be unthinkable, which makes sense; you may not realize that self-harm isn't the only or even best coping method around.

For many people who self-injure, though, there comes a breakthrough moment when they realize that change is possible, that they can escape, that things can be different. They begin to believe that other tools do exist and begin figuring out which of these non-self-destructive ways of coping work for them. This site exists to help you come closer to that moment.

How do you know if you self-injure? It may seem an odd question to some, but a few people aren't sure if what they do is "really" self-injury. Answer these questions:

  1. Do you deliberately cause physical harm to yourself to the extent of causing tissue damage (breaking the skin, bruising, leaving marks that last for more than an hour)?
  2. Do you cause this harm to yourself as a way of dealing with unpleasant or overwhelming emotions, thoughts, or situations (including dissociation)?
  3. If your self-harm is not compulsive, do you often think about SI even when you're relatively calm and not doing it at the moment?

If you answer #1 and #2 yes, you are a self-injurer. If you answer #3 yes, you are most likely a repetitive self-injurer. The way you choose to hurt yourself could be cutting, hitting, burning, scratching, skin-picking, banging your head, breaking bones, not letting wounds heal, among others. You might do several of these. How you injure yourself isn't as important as recognizing that you do and what it means in your life.

Self-injurious behavior does not necessarily mean you were an abused child. It usually indicates that somewhere along the line, you didn't learn good ways of coping with overwhelming feelings. You're not a disgusting or sick; you just never learned positive ways to deal with your feelings.

Please try to make yourself safe before proceeding; some of these pages contain material that may temporarily intensify the urge to self-harm in some people. If you are struggling with the impulse to self-injure right now, you may want to skip directly to the self-help section. If you're new to the concept of self-injury and don't know where to start, try this quick primer on SI. The primer is also useful if you find some of the other pages here too technical.

These pages copyright 1996-2002, Deb Martinson. All rights reserved. Noncommericial reproduction is encouraged; please credit author.
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Site news -- updated 18 December 02

Information, self-help, personal stories

NOTE: "What self-injury is" and "Personal Quotes" contain potentially distressing material. If you self-injure now or have in the past, please make yourself safe before reading these sections; they may temporarily intensify your urge to self-harm.



What self-injury is

Living with the effects of SI

Why some people self-injure

Help for families and friends

Demographics -- Who SIs?

Quotes from personal stories

Etiology -- Underlying causes


Associated Diagnoses


Therapeutic approaches

Updates (Last: 14 Jan 2002)


Interactive areas

bodies under siege email support list for people who have concerns about self-injury (open to people who do or have done self-injury, therapists, friends, etc).

#bus -- a private, password-protected bodies-under-siege Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel with a java interface. A safe place to talk about things consequential and silly with other people who have used or do use self-harm as a coping mechanism. Please abide by the guidelines.

Self-assessment of current need to self-injure

Real-world resources in the US, Canada, UK, and Australia.

Message board for self-injurers

Message board for friends/partners/families

non-bus list for friends/family members/etc of people who self-injure

Reader survey: your comments and suggestions help me know where to take this page in the future.

Self-injury questionnaire

Pages that link here

Feedback via email is always welcome.

Download text version of all pages on this site (zipped; last updated 4 Aug 01)

Read reviews of and buy books on self-injury and other books referenced on this site through

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If you'd like to be notified of updates to this page, enter your email address below, then click the 'Join update list' button. Email addresses are not disclosed to anyone but me.

Sometimes I am asked how people can financially support this page. Although I will never charge anyone for the services and information provided through this site and the bus email list, I have set up an Amazon Honor System box to accommodate people who want to contribute.



Thanks to Matt and Gwenneth Sheahan, former proprietors of, who donated space for this project for six years; Soren Dayton; Alan Jaffray; Ruth Herman-Dunn; Tammy Bucklew, RN; Kharre; and all of the members, past and present of the bodies-under-siege community, whose courage makes me proud to know them.

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