The Physical Risks of Self-Harm

February 27, 2019 Kayla Chang

There are physical risks of self-harm even though most self-harm acts are not intended to kill. Learn about the physical risks of self-harm at HealthyPlace.

Most of the time, self-harm is not inflicted with the intention of causing serious damage, but even so, there are physical risks of self-harm. Typically, the resulting physical wounds of self-harm tend to be superficial, especially in those for whom self-harm is relatively new. However, self-harm has a way of escalating quickly and can, if left untreated, pose a physical danger.

Possible Physical Risks of Self-Harm

Because methods of self-harm vary so much, it is difficult to give an entirely comprehensive overview of all the possible risks ("10 Ways People Self-Harm, Self-Injure"). However, some methods are more common (or more physical) than others and carry with them similar risks of physical harm. Two risks include:

  • Excessive bleeding -- Cutting is one of the most common methods of self-harm, and is the one that most people associate with self-harm. Although many cases of cutting draw little if any blood, it is easy — especially if the cutter is in a heightened emotional state and/or using unfamiliar instruments and/or inebriated — to cut deeper than intended. In some cases, the cut may be severe enough to warrant immediate medical attention.
  • Infection -- Open wounds can, if left untreated, result in infection. Infection is hard to predict and it's hard to gauge its severity. It can range from mild inflammation to — in the most extreme cases — amputation or event death by infection-related complications. 

How to Minimize the Physical Risks of Self-Harm

Obviously, the best way to minimize the physical risks of self-harm would be not to self-harm at all. But preaching abstinence is neither helpful nor effective. So, here are some precautions you can take to protect yourself against more serious physical risks of self-harm.

  • Always use clean instruments. Whatever you are using to self-harm, make sure it is sanitized and free of rust.
  • Never share instruments. This will help prevent diseases transmitted through bodily fluids, namely blood.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. Being drunk or high can dull your sensory perceptions, making it harder to recognize your body’s pain signals.

There is a good chance that, as someone who self-harms, you do not give much thought to personal safety. But you never really know how you feel until things go too far. And since you cannot be sure of your feelings, it is better to err on the side of caution, before you do something that you can never undo.

APA Reference
Chang, K. (2019, February 27). The Physical Risks of Self-Harm, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Author: Kayla Chang

You can find Kayla on Google+.

December, 12 2022 at 1:35 am

i’m proud of you

March, 1 2019 at 1:30 pm

I’ve never been hospitalized for self harm. Really I was just lucky. I easily could have been. I don’t do it anymore, I’ve been mostly clean for 2 years now with only 1 relapse about 8 months ago.

July, 6 2023 at 5:23 pm

Good job! Quitting anything is hard and 1 relapse in 2 years is major improvement! My girl has similar numbers and I'm super proud of how far she's come.
To anyone reading this, don't look at it as blowing a streak, or failing after so long, but instead focus on how long you *did* manage to persevere and do what was best for you. It's not a relapse in almost two years it's almost two years without a relapse.

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