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Self Harm & Self Injury

Whilst not all, some survivors of childhood sexual abuse will develop self injury behaviours.

Self-injurious behaviour was defined by Murphy and Wilson (1985, p. 15) as: ‘Any behaviour, initiated by the individual, which directly results in physical harm to that individual. Physical harm (includes) bruising, lacerations, bleeding, bone fractures and breakages and other tissue damage.’ This definition was used in a large UK research project. It focuses on the tissue damage which is, after all, implicit in the term ‘self-injury’. 

However, there have been some debates about the limitations of this definition. For example, there have been discussions about whether behaviours like self-induced vomiting (which can be life-threatening) and trichillotomania (pulling out your own hair), should be included under ‘self-injury’ since both may involve tissue loss, if not direct tissue damage. It has also been argued that behaviours of the same topography (form) as a self-injurious behaviour (such as light head tapping, that is not currently producing tissue damage) should be included as self-injury.

Behaviours like these, that are not producing injuries, are normally referred to as stereotypies (repetitive apparently purposeless movements). All researchers and clinicians agree there is a close connection between these two types of behaviour. (source: Self-Injurious Behaviour - Information Sheet)

There is a huge volume of information for those that use self injury as a coping strategy, for family/friends who are seeking to understand and provide support to the individual and for professionals who wish to learn more on the topic, see below:


Self Injury Support - Their Mission:  

That anyone who uses self-injury knows they are not alone;

that everyone understands that self-injury is a complex and important issue we should all care about;

and that together we tackle both the causes and stigma of self-injury.


The National Self Harm Network  - Their Mission:

Support individuals who self harm to reduce emotional distress and improve their quality of life.

Support and provide information for family and carers of individuals who self harm.

Raise awareness of the needs of people who self harm, dispel myths and combat discrimination.