What is self-injury?

Self-injury is "the deliberate harming of one's body, resulting in tissue damage, that is not culturally sanctioned by the society in which one lives" (Self Injury Foundation, 2010). Individuals typically self-injure by cutting, hitting, burning or scratching themselves with the goal of relieving emotional pain. The behavior can be caused by a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, a desire to "see" their emotional pain as a physical injury, communicate pain to others or themselves, or to punish themselves. In most cases, people who self-injure are not attempting suicide and may not have even considered this action.

How common is self-injury in college students?

A 2006 survey of 2,875 college students showed that 17% reported a history of self-injury, and that 75% of these individuals had self-harmed more than once. Forty percent reported that nobody knew about the behavior (Hitti, 2006).

Why should someone who is self-injuring seek help?

Self-injury is a tool some people use to cope with underlying psychological concerns, relationship problems, or feelings of low self-worth. By addressing these concerns openly, the need for self-injury can feel less acute. Additionally, continued self-injury can have significant implications for physical health. For instance, some individuals accidentally injure too much (e.g., cut too deep, hit too hard) leading to punctured arteries or veins or broken bones. These problems require immediate medical attention. Other significant problems can include wound infection (resulting from improper wound care or using unclean instruments to self-injure) and permanent scarring.

How can the Marquette Counseling Center help?

The staff at the Counseling Center is familiar with helping college students through past or present self-injury. Please call us at 414-288-7172 to make an appointment or to speak to a clinical staff member about your concerns.