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"All the little things that might have been annoying me suddenly seem so trivial because I'm concentrating on the pain. I'm not a person who can scream and shout so this is my only outlet. It's all done very logically."

Self-harm (SH), also termed self-injury (SI), is the act or acts of deliberately hurting oneself. Methods of doing so include, but are not limited to cutting, scratching, burning, biting, and banging or hitting body parts. Eating disorders are also considered to exist on the self-harm spectrum, as are some high-risk unsafe sexual practices (specifically anything related to Erotic Asphyxiation, weapons play with "live" weapons such as sharp knives or loaded firearms, and/or intentionally trying to become infected with HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.) Particularly easy to miss are those who commit emotional self-harm, which can be both a surrogate and precursor to physical self-harm.note  Some consider cigarette smoking and tobacco use and/or the intentional consumption of severely unhealthy foods as forms of Self Harm, but this is somewhat controversial because the motivations underlying both behaviors are often somewhat different than those underlying more traditional forms of self-harm.note 


There is a lot of stigma surrounding self-harm. In fiction, it is generally associated with the emo subculture and often thought that self-injurers are "just doing it for attention". Cutting is by far the most represented form of SI in fiction, though other forms are seen.

In reality, however, there are many reasons for self-harm, and it is not confined to (or encouraged by) any particular subcultures. It is usually a sign that someone is really hurting inside or suffering from mental illness; self-harm is associated with a variety of mental illnesses, including depression and borderline personality disorder (BPD is, in fact, the only illness for which the DSM lists self-harm as a criterion.) Contrary to the belief that they are seeking attention, many self-injurers will go to great lengths to hide their injuries or keep the reason that they received those injuries a secret by covering them up with clothing and/or makeup or by claiming that the injuries were an accident, respectively.


Reasons for self-injury include, but are not limited to:

  • Relief of emotional pain: many people who self-harm suffer from disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder which cause intense emotional ups or downs. Self-harm can provide temporary relief from these emotions.
  • To generate feelings: On the other end of the spectrum, some people who self-harm have feelings of numbness or dissociation, and the only way that they can feel anything at all is by hurting themselves.
  • Control: Often in addition to one or both of the above, people may self-harm because the pain it generates is the only feeling that they are able to control.
  • Self-punishment: some people who self-harm do it because they think they've done something that warrants punishment, or perhaps they suffer from self-loathing and think they deserve to suffer pain.
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  • Sexual gratification via pain: Some people obtain sexual gratification via acts that are sufficiently extreme enough to cross over from "harmless" (e.g. getting insulted or spanked) to Self Harm (e.g. Erotic Asphyxiation or knife play) whether with a partner or alone.
  • To communicate to others: Although it's much less frequent than is usually portrayed, some people self-harm because they don't know how to effectively communicate to others. It doesn't make them manipulative or attention-seeking, it just means that they don't know of better ways to communicate. It can be a sort of distress signal. Some people do this because they feel that their mental health isn't taken seriously and use this to say, "Please, listen. I need help. This really is an issue. This is what can happen if I don't get the help I need."
  • Though it's not as common as the others, some simply do it as a quick and simple way to feel good for a short amount of time.
  • Religion or ritual: Though it's not as common as the other reasons in modern times, some people self-harm or subject themselves to harm from someone else as a result of religious belief or as a ritual act. In past times, it was far more common, with a distinct overlap between it and the above-mentioned reasons of self-punishment or sexual gratification.
  • Seeking community/social acceptance: This one is almost exclusive to eating disorders and to seeking HIV infection (e.g. cutting, burning, and the like aren't usually done to be a part of a community), but some people actually want to be anorexic or bulimic because anorexia or bulimia make them skinny/socially accepted, or because they can relate to other eating disordered people online or in real life. Some of those who seek HIV infection view being HIV+ as a "club" or "community," and seek it for that reason, as well. It is also the reason some people smoke and/or consume unhealthy foods if you consider one or both of those intentional self-harm.)

It should be noted that not all people who self-harm are suicidal, though there is an increased risk of suicide in those who do, especially accidental suicide if the person truly does not care about living or dying, or has no education or interest in harm reduction/is engaging in specifically risky practices. However, in media, self-harm frequently signifies that a character is suicidal.

Self-Mutilation Demonstration is another reason why characters might deliberately injure themselves, as is any situation when they're faced with a Life-or-Limb Decision. Compare Stop Hitting Yourself, where an opponent or bully forces someone to hurt oneself.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Attack on Titan, this is the primary method that Titan Shifters use to activate their transformation since injury (and a clear goal) are required. Eren has a tendency to bite his hand hard enough to draw blood, which others note is actually harder than it looks.
  • Berserk:
    • At several points in the manga, Griffith claws at his arms deeply enough to bleed, usually due to going through some bad things mentally.
    • Guts does this in the earlier chapters too, to what's left of his arm with his fingers.
    • And then there's Farnese and her penchant for self-flagellation, which she does for religious, emotional, and sexual reasons.
  • Black Lagoon:
    • Implied with Frederica Sawyer. In Chapter #41, scars can be seen on her wrist while she is climbing a ladder, and a few official artworks featuring her show a fairly large amount of scars on her wrists.
    • When Garcia overhears Roberta (who he has a big crush on) getting intimate with a soldier he responds by crying and biting into his finger hard enough that he bleeds.
  • A Cruel God Reigns: Around a year after Sandra and Greg's deaths, Jeremy begins slamming his head and body into walls and door frames when he becomes too distressed or during moments of confusion.
  • A contractor in Darker Than Black has to cut himself in order to activate his powers.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Captain Ginyu wounds himself by stabbing his own hand into his chest, which greatly shocks Goku...but not as much as Ginyu's subsequent use of a body-change technique, leaving Goku in his badly injured body.
  • After her wings begin splotching due to becoming sin-bound, Rakka from Haibane Renmei begins cutting off the ruined feathers. She stops when Reki finds out and teaches her how to dye her wings. Reki herself used to mutilate her wings as well due to being born with black wings.
  • In Inuyasha, there is a scene where Naraku, frustrated about the feelings of jealousy and unrequited love for Kikyo (which he blames on the vestiges of his humanity, but are later revealed to be very much his own), rips the skin of his back (where he has a scar that marks him as part-human) with a sword. With a Healing Factor like his, the resulting wound is like a shallow papercut to him, but the scene implies that he has been doing it over and over again and he has implied that he tried even more drastic methods... Since he already knew that it wouldn't work, one can assume that he does it entirely because of the aforementioned feelings.
  • The main character of Life by Keiko Suenobu begins cutting after her best friend turns on her. In the Live-Action Adaptation, this is replaced by an Important Haircut and it focuses harder on the bullying.
  • It's revealed in Lonely Wolf, Lonely Sheep that Little Imari has repeatedly broken her index finger on purpose. She started hurting herself because she was going through artist's block but noticed that when she accidentally broke her finger she no longer felt the pressure to draw. Big Imari offers Little Imari to join her as an interior designer so that she doesn't have to paint anymore.
  • Kosame from Magical Girl Site has powers that are activated by her cutting herself. As a result, her wrists are covered in bandages. It's also mentioned that Kosame started cutting herself before becoming a Magical Girl.
  • In Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam, protagonist Tobia is being held captive by someone who thinks Newtypes have evolved beyond the concerns of Muggles and is trying to convince him to not care about the war going on right outside. Tobia's Shut Up, Hannibal! is to steal a knife from a nearby guard, cut his arm, and say (paraphrased) "Newtypes and Oldtypes bleed the same blood; we aren't superior, just different."
  • Naruto:
    • Gaara attempted to slash his own wrists as a child but was blocked by his own sand barrier. This is after a classic example of a Dark and Troubled Past since while he had never actually been injured due to said sand barrier and was only half-halfheartedly trying out of curiosity, the fact that a child would casually try something like that is still rather indicative of Gaara's state of mind.
    • Hidan takes this Up to Eleven by having to impale himself with sharp objects in order to sacrifice people for his religious ceremonies. After linking his body to someone else through ingesting some of their blood, wounding his immortal body allows him to transfer said damage to his victim.
    • The summoning technique in general requires the summoner to offer some blood before they can proceed to summon their creatures. Usually the go-to method is to bite the thumb.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • While she may or may not have tried to speed the process by cutting her wrists and lying in a bathtub, Asuka was implied to have taken a more indirect route by starving herself. She's found naked with her clothes folded neatly (a hallmark of people committing suicide) and is too weak to avoid being taken into custody when Section 2 agents find her.
    • One early draft of episode 24 would've shown Kaworu with scars on his wrists and neck, with the implications that they were from suicide attempts. This was apparently cut in the final draft, but it does help explain why Kaworu was so willing to have Shinji kill him.
  • One Piece:
    • Very early, during the Arlong arc, Arlong's ally, corrupt marine officer Nezumi, "confiscates" the ransom money that Nami spent the last 8 years collecting. Arlong tells her that he didn't break their deal and the villagers decide that she has fought enough, and goes to fight him, which would lead to their certain deaths. Distraught and hopeless, Nami grabs a knife and starts violently defacing the Arlong tattoo on her arm, not stopping until Luffy grabs her hand.
    • The scar under Luffy's left eye is self-inflicted, but it wasn't for much of an emotional reason. He just wanted to show how tough he was to the other pirates when he was a kid.
  • PandoraHearts: In times of emotional distress Break will claw at his empty eye socket until it bleeds. (It was pulled out of his head by the Will of the Abyss).
  • In Shadow Star, Akira Sakura cuts herself - hardly surprising considering how dark the series is. She's depressed and suicidal due to her father's Parental Incest and bullying at school.
  • In Suicide Club, Saya is frequently shown cutting her forearms. Initially it seems to be a way for her to deal with her personal trauma, but it's revealed that part of a previous cycle of the Mitsuko club involved Mitsuko and her followers cutting their forearms as some kind of bonding-through-mutual-pain ritual.
  • Tokyo Ghoul:
    • After being captured and imprisoned in Cochlea, the amnesiac Ghoul #240 is seen wearing bandages over his eyes. This is because he repeatedly clawed his own eyes out (he has a Healing Factor so they would regrow), to the extent the wounds kept getting infected.
    • Juuzou Suzuya is shown stitching his own skin for no discernible reason. Being raised and tortured by a psychopathic ghoul might have something to do with it since he shrugs off more major injuries as well.
  • One of the many signs of mental instability shown by Dilandau in The Vision of Escaflowne is how he picks at the cut on his face that Van gave him early in the series and reopens it while brooding. One of his Mooks points out that this is preventing it from healing properly and gets promptly backhanded for it.
  • Wolf Guy - Wolfen Crest: The Big Bad Haguro Dou becomes completely and crazily obsessed with protagonist (and werewolf) Inugami. He initially doesn't care about or even think twice about Inugami... until he pushes Inugami too far. This results in Inugami showing him his true form and scaring Haguro. Haguro goes insane from it, and obsesses and stalks Inugami after that, even cutting himself all over his arm and carving the word "Inu" onto his hand.
  • In The World God Only Knows, Lune is stabbing herself to relieve the frustration of being unable to harm humans.

    Comic Books 
  • In Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, Amadeus Arkham's patient, serial killer Martin "Mad Dog" Hawkins, states that he cuts his arms with a razor "[j]ust to feel. Just to feel something."
  • Speedball, aka Robbie Baldwin of New Warriors wound up needing to do this to use his powers because of his guilt following the disastrous explosion in Stamford Connecticut that claimed the lives of 612 people. For a time he wears a special suit that constantly injures him so he can unlock them and dubs himself Penance, but even after he gets rid of the suit and goes back to his old persona he admits that he still cuts himself to store up the energy he uses as Penance because this power is more useful in a fight, but he realizes how harmful this is and Hank Pym offers to get him help.
  • In the first arc of Runaways, Nico uses a pocket knife to cut her arm, whenever she has to summon the Staff of One (which only appears when she bleeds). Though Nico is a Perky Goth though, she actually is not normally a cutter. In fact, after the first arc is over, she can't bring herself to use the pocket knife and instead resorts to more imaginative ways to bleed (including making use of that time of the month).
  • In The Sandman, Despair habitually tears her skin with the hooked ring she wears. At one point she cut her eyeball open, which was mercifully only narrated, not shown. It doesn't leave permanent marks, presumably because she's as immortal as the rest of the Endless.
  • In Strangers in Paradise, Tambi Baker used to cut herself while in the employ of Darcy Parker.
  • X-23 habitually cuts herself on the wrists and forearms with her claws, and is first shown engaging in this behavior after being forced to kill her sensei as a test of the trigger scent. Laura can fall under all of the reasons for cutting noted above, and one issue of her solo series suggests she may even be inflicting fatal injuries on herself: An employee at a hotel where she was staying with Gambit reported to his manager that it appeared as if someone attempted to commit suicide in a bathroom she just left. Her Healing Factor prevents her from dying from her wounds, however, and completely heals the resulting scars.
  • In The Crow, to vent his anguish Eric uses a straight razor to slash one forearm, and later cuts a stylized crown of thorns into his chest. These leave nasty scars, unlike other injuries which appear to completely heal.
  • In Finder, Jaeger, the protagonist of several arcs, sometimes has to resort to self-harm if he doesn't get injured in some other way, as he has a very strong Healing Factor that, if not activated every so often, gives him an auto-immune disease. This is played for black humour in one story where he starts cutting himself in his girlfriend's bathroom, gets too enthusiastic, leaves the bathroom looking like a slaughterhouse, and jumps out of the window and runs away in embarrassment when she gets home. She muses that it was the first time she had a boyfriend who ran away and killed himself.
  • Joker's Daughter mentions that as a teenager she was an anorexic who also cut herself often.
  • The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye:
    • Because Cyclonus is The Stoic, instead of giving vent to his emotional turmoil regarding Tailgate by yelling or crying, he drags his clawlike hands through his own face. At one point, Whirl (of all people) grabs his wrist and stops him.
      Whirl: Don't.
    • Chief Justice Tyrest practices a form of self-flagellation where he constantly drills holes in himself, even having a drill built into his finger so he could do it whenever he felt the need, as a way of coping with his out-of-control guilt complex; it's not healthy - it's theorised that it may have even caused some measure of brain damage - but at least it's healthier than his OTHER way of coping with his guilt complex. He eventually uses it to take out one of the series' main candidates for a Big Bad, the Grand Architect, in a Mutual Kill.

    Film — Animated 
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: Spider-Man Noir lets matches burn down to his fingertips, just to feel something, anything.
  • During a fight scene in Steven Universe: The Movie, Spinel hits herself on the head with her own fist (complete with squeaky toy hammer sound effects) to get herself to focus.

    Film — Live Action 
  • The main character of 13 is a cutter.
  • In The Abyss, self-harm is one of the signs of Lt. Coffey's descent into insanity.
  • In 28 Days, there is a scene where Andrea, Gwen's roommate at rehab, is caught self-injuring by Gwen.
  • In Asylum, Ivy confesses to Madison that she is a self-injurer.
  • Augusta Gone explicitly shows a scene of cutting while the character Augusta is at a camp for "problem" teens.
  • One of the characters in the '80s horror film Bad Dreams.
    "I just make a little hole, and it all goes away."
  • Karin from Cries and Whispers has a lot of issues, really, with pent-up rage and an inability to express love and a dickhead of a husband. So she stabs herself in the vagina with a shard of glass. And then she smears the blood all over her face.
  • In the film of Girl, Interrupted:
    • Daisy is a cutter, something that is not a part of her character in the novel.
    • In a deleted scene, Lisa is shown self-harming, by burning her cigarettes on her forearm (in the shape of a cat), which is why she is seen wearing a bandage on it.
  • Veronica in Heathers is prone to burning herself as an expression of dislike for her actions or situation.
  • Discussed in High Fidelity. After Laura's father dies, she has sex with Rob and they get back together. She says it's either that or stick her hand in the fire.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road:
    • The Splendid Angharad's facial scars have been confirmed to be from self-harm, with the implication she did it both to cope with life as a Sex Slave and to herself to make herself less desirable to Immortan Joe. Also, as a Freeze-Frame Bonus, small scars can be seen on her wrist as she hands Max the water hose.
    • The same kind of scars can be seen for a split second on Furiosa's wrist while she activates the Rig's killswitches, although in another closeup a second later they are no longer visible. It's strongly implied that she was a former Wife as well.
  • Saw
    • Amanda, previously a drug addict, started self-harming (via cutting) which is what lands her in another trap in Saw II (actually, that was part of the plan but she did self-harm). She is shown cutting one of her legs in Saw III, laying out all the tools before she starts (in an attempt to gain control over her situation), and later tightly grips a knife until she begins to bleed onto the floor (because she's starting to lose control — in comparison to the previous scenes in the film).
    • Paul, a victim, had run a straight razor across his wrists (either to gain attention or to kill himself, as John asks via tape).
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal's character in Secretary does this due to her submissive nature. There's one scene of her pressing a still hot kettle on her thigh.
  • In The Sniper, Eddie Miller attempts to overcome his impulse to kill by deliberately burning his hand on hotplate.
  • Julie in Three Colors: Blue starts harming herself after the deaths of her husband and child, most notably in a sequence where she deliberately drags her fist along a jagged stone wall.
  • Tiger House: After killing Lynn's lover, Callum heats the blade of his knife and presses the hot metal against his forearm and some form of penance/control mechanism. The identical scars on his arm indicate this is not the first time he has done this.
  • In Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl, there is a school club devoted to this.
  • X-Men Film Series
    • In X2: X-Men United, this is implicitly where all of Nightcrawler's scars came from. (His are unusual in that they look like artistic, ritual scarification, which is different from most self-harm injuries.)
      "One for every sin. So, quite a few."
    • In X-Men: The Last Stand, when his wings first appear, Angel tries to scrape them off with files and graters.
    • In Logan, Laura is seen on a video recording cutting herself and watching the injuries heal while she's an experimental subject in a Transigen lab.
  • In Gunless, Sean carves notches into his left am so the scars form tally marks: one for each man he has killed.
  • Loving Annabelle: Colins is shown to cut herself, probably for dealing with her social anxiety and getting bullied.
  • M.F.A.: Skye cuts herself, as Noelle finds upon finding her in the bathroom. It's unstated, but clearly implied she does so as a result of her trauma due to being raped. This also foreshadows Skye's later suicide by the same means, a razor blade.
  • The Summer of Sangaile: Sangaile cuts herself frequently, having both her forearms crisscrossed with scars. Auste is casual about it, even telling her to do seventeen so it matches Sangaile's age, while cutting her arm too in solidarity. It seems to be a coping mechanism for negative feelings, since Sangaile mentions she first cut herself after her mom had said she's weak. It's not explicitly stated, but implied that by the end she's stopped.
  • In Stiletto, Lee's girlfriend Penny is shown doing this whenever she is left alone for too long. Her acts include extinguishing cigarettes on her thigh, and cutting her wrist with a pocketknife.

  • In The Amy Virus, Cyan tries cutting herself when she's stressed out about her grades. Not only does it not work, it hurts like crazy.
  • Codex Alera: The Canim Ritualist Morak has arms covered in self-harm scars. In his case, this is to establish him as a good guy and follower of the Good Old Ways. Canim Ritualists use Blood Magic and have to spill blood in order to make it work. Good ones, who emphasize community service and self-sacrifice as part of their art spill their own blood, the ones who are only in it for the power tend to use someone else's.
  • Perhaps the best-known example in YA fiction is Patricia McCormick's Cut, about a cutter.
  • Shows up a lot in Ellen Hopkins' young adult books.
  • In Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Oskar frequently bruises himself when he is upset.
  • Hayleigh from Fat does this, but it's to fake her periods.
  • In the Frozen book A Frozen Heart, Hans runs his fingers over the rough wood of the table and finds the pain the splinters cause to be "oddly pleasant. Physical pain he could handle."
  • Ann from the Gemma Doyle trilogy is not a fan of herself. This is to the point of self-harm.
  • It's mentioned in passing in ghostgirl that one of the Dead Ed students died from self-harm. She'd cut but not deep enough to do massive damage. She ended up dying due to an infection caused by her cutting.
  • In Girl, Interrupted, Susanna bites her hands due to feelings of depersonalization. This is omitted from the film.
  • In Jodi Picoult's Handle with Care, Amelia, the older daughter of the main character, begins cutting (in addition to developing bulimia), to deal with her feelings of neglect and loneliness.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Werewolves will attack themselves out of frustration while transformed if there are no humans around to attack.
    • House-elves are compelled to physically punish themselves if they disobey their masters.
      "Bad Dobby!"
  • In I Am J, J's friend Melissa cuts herself. It makes her mad whenever J brings it up.
  • Serena d'Angelus, an artist in Fulgrim, cuts herself to deal with her frustrations. After the corruption of Slaanesh infects the remembrancers that went to Laeran, her self-mutilation gets worse and then she discovers that mixing blood with her paints makes shades that she cannot replicate normally.
  • Limbo, the 1952 science fiction novel by Bernard Wolfe, depicts a future world where young men undergo voluntary amputation as the moral equivalent of war, a case of literal disarmament. Some go to the extent of forsaking prosthetic limbs to spend the rest of their lives being tended like a baby in an adult crib.
  • Lisa engages this during one scene in Lisa, Bright and Dark by John Neufeld.
  • Jude from A Little Life self-harms throughout the novel.
  • Steven Levenkron's The Luckiest Girl in the World is about this trope. The author also wrote a non-fiction book on the subject.
  • An odd example of a villain, and someone who's not a teenager: Annie Wilkes in Misery.
  • In Piers Anthony's Mode series, the main character is introduced sneaking off to the bathroom to cut herself again, keeping her scarred wrists hidden by fashionable bands. She also exploits her 'habit' by setting a challenge to see who can bleed the most, her opponent is not willing to cut himself at all, so she wins.
  • In book 7 of Morganville Vampires, after the death of the love of her life, Sam, Amelie falls into depression and begins cutting her wrists at the site of Sam's grave.
  • Tahiri does this for a few books in the late New Jedi Order. It's eventually revealed that this is her repressed Yuuzhan Vong personality, Riina, trying to assert herself (the Vong practice ritual scarring- and at high level, other forms of Body Horror- as a status symbol and religious rite). After pulling a Split-Personality Merge, Tahiri stops having the impulse, though she remains Vong enough inside that she won't let anyone remove the scars.
  • School's Out -- Forever has a couple of scenes where Ari bites his arm to make himself feel better about his daddy issues (among other issues).
  • Lily from The Secret Life of Bees has a habit of picking her scabs or biting her nails 'till they bleed when nervous.
  • Shadows on the Moon: The heroine turns to cutting to deal with the stress of survivor's guilt.
  • In The Southern Reach Trilogy, the biologist discovers that pain holds the transformation at bay, so in her 30-year stay at Area X she is revealed to have done things such as deliberately stepping on a nail and allowing herself to be bitten by a venomous snake. Grace discovers the biologist's notes and also does some self-harm to stop the change.
  • One scene in Speak features Melinda scratching herself with a paperclip until she bleeds.
  • Uglies: In Pretties, Shay leads a group of Pretties who cut themselves to focus their minds. In Specials, the Cutters cut themselves, burn themselves, and subject themselves to extreme cold for similar reasons.
  • An Unkindness of Ghosts:
    • Giselle is obsessed with fire and doesn't mind burning herself. The way she sees it, everything will be destroyed eventually, including her body, so she might as well burn her hands now when she can control it.
    • Theo self-flagellates and sleeps in a salt bath to rid himself of his impure thoughts about Aster.
  • In Vampire Academy, Lissa used to cut herself when depressed.
  • In Wicked, Elphaba was born with sharp teeth. Being a baby, she has no self-control and likes biting things. She's kept in a sling so that she can't bite herself or anything else. Eventually, the teeth fell out and were replaced with normal teeth.
  • Julia Hoban's novel Willow is about a cutter.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 7th Heaven: In one episode, Mary catches Nicole (a new friend of her sister's) self-harming in her bathroom. Mary tells Eric (her father), who then tells Nicole's father. Eric gives him a card and a number to call so they can get help for Nicole. Nicole is then Put on a Bus.
  • In 13 Reasons Why, Skye Miller is revealed to be a cutter. Skye tells Clay Jensen that the scars on her wrist is what she does instead of killing herself. This leads her to being taken to the hospital and then admitted to a mental health facility to deal with her problem.
  • The Affair: After Noah sees scars on Alison's legs, she admits that she cuts herself to cope with the death of her son Gabriel. Later in the series, she's seen doing it again during an emotional breakdown.
  • The Bad Girls Club: Zara cuts herself after getting into a fight with the rest of the members of the group.
  • Beverly Hills, 90210: In one episode, Donna finds her assistant cutting herself, after suspecting it. She tries to help her, eventually persuading her to get therapy.
  • Boardwalk Empire: Agent Nelson van Alden of the Burau of Prohibition is a deeply puritanical man who self-flagellates when he finds himself obsessively attracted to Margaret Schroeder.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • After discovering she was Born of Magic, Dawn is discovered with a knife in one hand and a large gash on the other arm. She then asks "Is this blood?", suggesting that the incident was an attempt to see if she was human.
    • Faith is a bit of an atypical variant, as she's harming her body while her mind isn't actually occupying it. (As such, this could be argued not to be harming "herself" per se. That said, all of the self-loathing and rage of a self-harmer is present as she lays into her Buffy-occupied body.)
  • Community has this on one episode, when Jeff admits to cutting himself in 7th grade to fake appendicitis, just so someone would care about him He still has the scar, 22 years later.
  • Control Z: Sofia cut herself regularly in the past. Her arms are literally crisscrossed with old scars.
  • Criminal Minds: On a campus where the team has been investigating a spate of murders, one of the girls there is shown cutting and deliberately trying to get herself killed by the murderer (like a suicide attempt).
  • Degrassi: The Next Generation has had four self-injurers:
    • The first was Ellie, who began cutting herself after her father leaves and her mother started drinking again. Eventually, Paige noticed and convinced Ellie to see the school guidance counselor. She's implied to have stopped cutting at some point, although she says that she'll always be a cutter, even if she never does it again.
    • Later, Adam, a transgender boy, resorts to burning after his mother tries to force him to live as a girl.
    • Campbell cuts himself with an ice skate and jumps off a ledge and breaks his arm.
    • Zoe began burning herself as a way to cope with forcing herself in the closet.
  • ER: In one episode, a self-harmer is treated at their clinic.
  • Euphoria: Jules used to cut herself as a coping mechanism over her dysphoria and other issues.
  • Later on in Heroes, after Sylar has gained the power of shapeshifting, he ends up having a Shapeshifter Identity Crisis and at one point carves his name into his arm. It heals away, an extra bit of symbolism, but it still shows that he's struggling with this new power.
  • One of the students in Higher Ground, Juliette, is a cutter and also suffers from bulimia.
  • House: In one episode, House discovers his patient has been cutting herself.
  • Intervention has featured self-injurers.
  • Played with in Jekyll; Hyde will often do things that hurt him, but they usually hurt Jackman more (and in any case, he has an extremely high threshold for pain). In his first episode, he intimidates someone by slowly stubbing out a cigarette on his own palm, commenting "It'll hurt more tomorrow" (when Jackman will be back in control), and at a bar deliberately orders something that's "really bad for hangovers".
  • Connor in The L.A. Complex deliberately crashed his car, poured boiling water over his arm, and set his house on fire.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: During one case, the daughter of a suspect is a cutter.
  • Lie to Me: Megan from "The Royal We" reveals cuts on her thigh to Dr. Lightman.
  • Mad Men: Ginsberg slices off one of his own nipples in the throes of a nervous breakdown brought on by the agency's new computer.
  • Used in the "Pretty White Kids" sketch from MADtv that makes fun at WB's contemporary melodramatic teen sitcoms. The pretty popular girl secretly cuts herself and keeps blades in her locker.
  • Several episodes of M*A*S*H have dealt with a soldier shooting himself in the foot to get out of the fighting for a while.
    • This was a favorite ploy of Col. Flagg. In his first appearance, he has a broken arm. Another intelligence officer (a friend of Trapper's) arrives in camp and said Flagg probably did it himself with a hammer, just so he could be brought to the 4077th and spy on them.
    • In the same episode, when Hawkeye told Flagg he couldn't give him a medical excuse to stay at the 4077th, Flagg re-broke his arm by smashing an X-ray machine on top of it.
    • In another episode, Flagg arrives at the 4077th to question a soldier who was caught stealing medical supplies. Flagg lets him escape, then wrecks the tent he was being held in. He caps it off by smashing a phone over his own head, then running himself head-first into a cabinet, to make it look like the prisoner overpowered him and escaped on his own.
  • Orphan Black: Helena has cuts on her back which makes it look like she has wings, and is seen cutting multiple times in season one. Tomas also self-harms at one point.
  • The Punisher (2017). Among the other scars she got during a childhood injury, Dr. Krista Dumont is shown to have neat parallel scars on the inside of her arm, hinting at the psychological issues that later cause her to ally herself with Billy Russo.
  • In a season 2 episode of Quantico, Dayana is seen making herself a cup of tea, but then she pours some of the hot water onto her hand.
  • The Real World: In the Cancun season, Ayiiia is caught self-harming in the bathroom and later she cuts herself on the deck.
  • Rome: Octavia is seen cutting herself in her tent and later her sleeves are pulled up to show the marks.
  • Shadow and Bone. People who've make it across the Shadow Fold alive put a cut on their arm to show it. The Conductor, who smuggles Grisha across the Fold, has multiple scars and admits that dicing with death on a regular basis can take a toll on one's sanity. Unfortunately when he's captured the scars reveal his identity, given that there's no-one else who's made that many crossings and lived.
  • Shadowhunters: In "Dust and Shadows", Alec is seen shooting arrows until his fingers bleed. He refuses to let anyone heal his hand when they notice the wound.
  • Shameless (US):
    • In the penultimate Season 2 episode, Monica, the Gallagher matriarch (in name, not in practice mind you), is shown with her slit wrists on the floor during the Thanksgiving dinner. She is bipolar, and had not been taking her medication for some time prior to the incident.
    • In Season 4, Debbie Gallagher self-harms after a complicated breakup with her boyfriend.
  • Sharp Objects: A major part of the plot, referenced by the title, is self-harm. Camille is revealed to have covered herself in scars spelling out disparaging words directed at herself. She can no longer wear short sleeves or skirts without betraying her secret.
  • Skins: Cassie. It's never seen though, only mentioned.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. In "Extreme Risk", B'Elanna Torres had been playing high-risk holodeck programs with the safety protocols removed. She's been treating the subsequent injuries herself so the Doctor won't find out what she's up to, but this trope is also implied when B'Elanna admits that she just wants to feel something, after receiving news of the annihilation of the Maquis back in the Alpha Quadrant.
  • The Walking Dead: In "Them," Daryl puts out a lit cigarette on his hand.
  • Please Like Me: In the season 3 episode "Simple Carbohydrates", it is revealed that Hannah has been self-harming by hitting/bruising herself. This is shown multiple times throughout the season.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • In the Book of Exodus, the Israelites are warned not to do this as part of their mourning rituals, or their religious rituals, as many of the cultures around them did.

  • The Magnus Archives: The narrator of the episode "Killing Floor" finds one of his colleagues at the slaughterhouse shooting himself with a bolt gun in various parts of his body.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dialed up to about fourteen by Malfeas in Exalted, who - being a Genius Loci packed with Malevolent Architecture - self-harms by slamming shells together as a manifestation of his cosmic bipolar disorder stemming from his defeat in the Primordial War, mixing reasons one and four above. The Abyssals are also portrayed this way occasionally, but usually they don't need to bother - if they're trying to be good people, their own Exaltations go out of their way to injure them, so self-harm is basically a waste of time.
    Holden Shearer: Funny thing: To the extent that the setting has anyone who is an emo cutter, it is actually Malfeas. However, he'll never get called on it, because he sulks while listening to Megadeth and he does his cutting with a chainsaw.
  • Orlanda Elliot, one of the sample characters in Scion, is a cutter. After becoming a Scion, the cuts actually did something useful (shedding her own blood gives her Legend), giving her no reason to stop. The reasons amount to 1, 3, and 4 in the description.

  • Quite possibly the only example of this trope Played for Laughs occurs in Little Shop of Horrors. Seymour discovers that his strange and unusual plant, Audrey II, eats blood when he accidentally pricks his finger on some roses. As a result, he feeds Audrey II by pricking his fingers and letting the plant literally suck him dry. This works out fine until Audrey II gets too big for Seymour's blood alone to satisfy it...

    Video Games 
  • Simon from Cry of Fear has several gashes on his left wrist, which he had apparently cut prior to the game's start. They are visible when he injects himself with morphine. The opening scene of the non-canon "Memories" bonus story involves Simon cutting while having flashbacks to the events of the main game.
  • Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls: Toko Fukawa can activate a controlled-variant of her Split Personality Genocide Jack by deliberately tasering herself. She notes that she didn't want to activate the Jack personality too often with this method because she fears that tasering herself too much will fry her brain.
  • Fallout: New Vegas has the schizophrenic Nightkin Dog of the Dead Money DLC. In an attempt to subdue his Split Personality, he has taken to physically scarring himself heavily and even attaching a bear trap to his fist to shut out the voice.
  • Neverending Nightmares has you playing a character with obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression, amongst other problems, exploring a series of nightmares. The nightmares usually end with him, seemingly for no reason, harming himself in some horrible way, ranging from cutting a deep, wide gash in his stomach with a knife to doing unspeakably gory things to his own arms.
  • Persona 3: Chidori is eventually discovered to do this.
  • At one point in the Serial Experiments Lain video game, Lain breaks a mirror and sinks a piece of glass into her neck.
  • Various sharp items in The Binding of Isaac explicitly damage Isaac/the player character in favor of some sort of in-game benefit. A literal Razor Blade increases Isaac's damage for the room, Dull Razor inflicts a "fake" hit that does not actually deplete Isaac's health but activates items that normally only work when taking damage, and Blood Rights (a straight-edge razor) damages all enemies in the room. The former can be unlocked as a starting item for Eve in Afterbirth by donating enough to the Greed Machine. In terms of passive items, Isaac has a habit of jamming certain objects in him to gain their effect, such as with Tiny Planet, Iron Bar, and Small Rock being stuck in his head.
  • This Starry Midnight We Make: Nagare discusses this in the cutscene that gives out her third quest, talking about how her father doesn't give her any attention:
    Nagare: What do you think I should do to get him to pay attention to me?
    Should I get good grades in school?
    Would he pay attention if I... got hurt?...
    —> Hamomoru: Er - let's NOT think about that!
    But... hmm. It seems you've thought about this a lot.
    Why not just write your father a letter about it?

    Visual Novels 
  • Doki Doki Literature Club!: Yuri is revealed to have a habit of cutting herself. There is a scene where the player character to come across her slicing her arm open with a knife from her collection, only for the game to rewind back to an earlier point. Monika also brings it up, claiming she does it when she's "excited." This explanation is supported by various other details in the game and provides a possible reason why Yuri would stab herself even if you accept her confession. However, since Monika has a reason to make Yuri look bad, it's unclear how much she's telling the truth.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry:
    • A symptom of Hinamizawa Syndrome is self-harm, normally scratching at the neck due to hallucinations of having bugs under your skin.
    • Rena used to cut herself out of paranoia, and likely depression, in the past. In one arc she also begins viciously scratching her skin due to believing she's infested with maggots.
  • Missing Stars is still in development, and thus is subject to change; however, concept art and official art suggests Katja cuts herself. The 2018 demo also shows that Katja wears bandages on her wrists.

    Web Comics 
  • It has been confirmed via Word of God that in Ava's Demon the scars on the title character's upper arms are from self-harm. Michelle has also revealed that Ava's signature scarf is to hide SH scars on her chest.
  • Nikki from Between the Lines apparently has a history of cutting herself.
  • Faen of Drowtales is shown to have developed this behavior after the 15-year timeskip, and digs her fingernails into her back until she bleeds, apparently due to anxiety. She's seen picking at a cut on her hand a page earlier, and Ariel's comments imply that this isn't the first time it's happened. Sadly not surprising considering that Faen is already a Nervous Wreck due to her empathy.
  • Grey is... : Black cuts himself the night after he remembers who White is while thinking about Ameers death, White knows and the next day calmly cleans and redresses the wound. White later says that he doesn't get it and asks if it's a new game he's playing, implying that Black didn't self-harm before White left.
  • During Gamzee's Freak Out in Homestuck, he slices himself across the face with Nepeta's claws for unclear reasons. Word of God says it was because joyful self-mutilation is Squicky (and therefore hilarious).
  • Played for Dark Comedy in Penny and Aggie. Aggie, regretful over having urged Duane to ask out Michelle (forgetting that she's in recovery from an eating disorder and other issues), pictures a cartoonishly stupid version of herself shoving Duane at Michelle, who's staring at her wrist and thinking of a razor blade.
  • Saha of Rasputin Catamite constantly cuts into his arms and wrists with a small blade, for no apparent reason.

    Web Original 
  • Cracked has discussed self-harm before, most notably in this article
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-847 is a mannequin that shatters parts of itself that a male who spends time with it finds undesirable or outdated.

    Western Animation 
  • Lemongrab of Adventure Time seems to have a habit of jumping out of high windows when he's in distress.
  • In Castlevania, Issac, one of Dracula's human disciples, engages in self-flagellation with a belt embedded with spikes. When asked why, he says it helps him gain focus and a sense of peace.
  • Toot on Drawn Together giggles as she tells us she cuts herself to dull the pain.
  • Family Guy:
    • Meg is sometimes depicted as fragile and disturbed and as a way to solve her problems she stated to her mom that she cuts herself. In another episode when Connie (who always bullies Meg) asked Meg to help her become popular again after Chris became popular Meg told her off and showed her the scars on her arm that she made from cutting herself as a result of Connie's bullying.
    • Quagmire marries Joan (a Yandere) in the episode "I Take Thee Quagmire". Peter convinces him to get a divorce using champagne and Lois' breasts, and when he tries to broach the subject, she threatens to cut herself with a kitchen knife.
  • Uncle in season 4 of Jackie Chan Adventures hits himself with his own two-finger slap, blaming himself for getting Tohru captured by Ikazuki.
  • In the Steven Universe: Future episode "Homeworld Bound", Steven's angst and resentment towards being a Diamond boils over into a Freak Out where he bashes his forehead against a pillar in a symbolic gesture of wishing death upon White Diamond. By this point in the series, it is established that his Healing Factor mitigates but does not prevent bone-fracturing injuries he sustains, and judging by the impact crater he left behind, it's likely he struck the pillar with enough force to shatter his own skull.

    Real Life 
  • Amy Winehouse admitted to being a cutter, though she spoke little about it publicly. The following exchange is from a 2007 Rolling Stone article:
    I point to my left forearm and say, "I couldn't help but notice the scars. How old were you when you started doing that?" She looks at me, surprised, but doesn't have a ready-made answer, so I continue: "I mean, the cutting." Her muscles seem to tighten, and she avoids eye contact as she replies, "Um, that's really old. Really old. Just from a bad time, I suppose. "And then, stammering, "D-d-desperate times."
  • Kago Ai, after being fired from Hello! Project by Up-Front Agency for being photographed smoking having already being suspended for it a year earlier, suffered from severe depression and started cutting herself. She has even admitted to having suicidal thoughts. She has since recovered, in addition to making a comeback as a musician and actress. Unfortunately as of September 2011, Kago Ai has once again attempted to slit her wrists and has been put on suicide watch.
  • Richey Edwards of the Manic Street Preachers had a history of self-harm. The most notorious incident was when Edwards, getting frustrated trying to convince a reporter from NME that the band were for real, eventually pulled out a razor and carved "4 REAL" into his arm. A photograph of his stitched-up arm appeared on the cover of the magazine.

Alternative Title(s): Self Injury


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