Who self harms?

How many people are affected?

Because of the strong stigma associated with self harm, knowing exactly how many people are dealing with it is complicated. Many will go through self harm alone with no one else knowing about it. However according to current studies, self harm is way more common than what you may think.

4 to 6% of the population will self harm at some point.

When it is the most common?

Self harm is most common in young people. 17 to 18% of teenagers and young adults have self harmed at some point. This means that in a classroom of 25 teenagers, between 4 to 5 students have been affected by self harm.

Most will start between 12 and 15 years old. However, this doesn’t mean children and adults are not affected by self harm.

Are girls and women more at risk?

One common misconception is that self harm mostly affects females. However, this is not what the scientific evidence shows.

According to studies, women are either no more likely or only slightly more likely to self harm than men. However males and females seem to experience self harm differently with different methods used, age of onset and duration.

Does this mean I’m mentally ill?

Self harm is currently not recognized as an official mental disorder (more here).

Self harm is more common in people with mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders and drug addiction. Around 20% of people experiencing mental illness will self harm.

However, not everyone who deals with self harm has a mental disorder. It is estimated that about 15-20% of people struggling with self harm do not meet criteria for any mental health disorder.

Groups at higher risks:

  • Teenagers
  • The LGBT+ community, especially bisexual and transgender people.
  • People who experienced abuse during childhood
  • Experiencing other mental disorders
  • People who experienced trauma (veterans, asylum seekers, prisoners…)


  • International Society for the Study of Self-injury. Who Engages in Nonsuicidal Self-Injury? Retrieved from https://itriples.org//who-engages-in-self-injury/
  • Royal College of Psychiatrists. Who self-harms? Retrieved from https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mental-health/problems-disorders/self-harm
  • Swannell, S.V., Martin, G.E., Page, A., Hasking, P., & St. John, N.J. (2014). Prevalence of nonsuicidal self-injury in nonclinical samples: Systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24422986/
  • Jennifer J Muehlenkamp, Laurence Claes, Lindsey Havertape & Paul L Plener. (2012). International prevalence of adolescent non-suicidal self-injury and deliberate self-harm. Retrieved from https://capmh.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1753-2000-6-10#Bib1
  • The Cornell Research Program on Self-injury and Recovery. Who self-injures? Retrieved from http://www.selfinjury.bctr.cornell.edu/about-self-injury.html#tab2
  • The Cornell Research Program on Self-injury and Recovery. How common is self-injury among adolescents and young adults? Retrieved from http://www.selfinjury.bctr.cornell.edu/about-self-injury.html#tab3
  • The Cornell Research Program on Self-injury and Recovery. When does self-injury start and how long does it last? Retrieved from http://www.selfinjury.bctr.cornell.edu/about-self-injury.html#tab4
  • Briere, J. & Gil, E. (2010). Self-mutilation in clinical and general population samples: Prevalence, Correlates, and Functions. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1037/h0080369