Methods of self-harm

This article is about the results for a casual form I did. It was a form I shared online and I received 143 answers which is not enough to draw reliable conclusions. Moreover the target was mainly reddit users and probably grown-ups which is not representative of every self-harmer. I am not an expert at all and my analysis is very superficial, it is just hypothesis. You can have a look at the results here and have your own opinion about them.

First of all I forgot to mention two very important elements in the form. I mentioned scars and healing as negative aspects of self-harm, but I forgot to add them among the potential positive, or rather desired, aspects of SH.

In this post I will only comment about the results for cutting, burning and scratching. In order to make this text more pleasant to read I will not constantly remind you that these results are not representative of all self-harmers, but only of those who answered the form. So keep in mind that these statistics are only crude indicators and are only based on the few people who accepted to fill the form.


With cutting, blood is very important (73,9%). This is the most chosen answer, followed by the fact it is painful enough (39,6%) and the practical aspect of cutting (35,8%). As mentioned above, I forgot to mention the scars and several people added it to the list. It could be interesting to know what meaning people give to blood, if it is only the visual aspect of it (which could perhaps be linked to scars, as a physical evidence of the cutter’s feelings?), or even a rather aesthetic aspect to the visual aspect as blood can be fascinating or beautiful to some people, or a much more symbolic aspect such as it being a symbol of life for example.

Most people who cut (76,9%) cut to calm down. 56% cut to punish themselves and 51,5% cut to forget or stop thinking about something. 51,5% also cut to have control.

46,5% chose the visibility of scars as something that can deter them from cutting. 43,4% mentioned how it was not practical for them to perform and 21,7% see blood as a negative aspect.


58,9% of people who burn choose burning, at least among other reasons, for the high level of pain caused by this method and 41,1% because this feeling of pain lasts long. 37,5% choose this method at least partly because it is more practical for them to perform and 30,4% because there is no blood. So it seems that with burning, pain is the most important aspect.

This pain aspect may explain why 53,6% of people who burn do so in order to punish themselves. 48,2% burn to calm down, 42,9% to forget or stop thinking about something (the intensity of pain may be a distraction?) and 39,3% to have control. 30,4% of people who burn do so in order not to feel numb, which seems to validate the importance of pain in burning.

However, pain can also deter people from burning (47,8%) and 44,4% fear burns are to difficult to treat. 34,4% do not burn because or when it is not practical for them to do so. Even if other options have been selected more, it is interesting to note that as much as 21,1% regret the lack of blood in burning. So to compare with cutting, maybe we could conclude that many people cut to see SH, whereas many people burn to feel SH.


The prevailing aspect in choosing scratching as a method of self-harm seems to be the practical aspect of it. Indeed, the three most chosen answers stress this aspect: 77,6% choose this method because it is more practical to perform, 47,1% because scars are less visible and 36,5% because it is easier to heal.

77,6% of people who scratch do so in order to calm down. 50,6% to forget or stop thinking about something and 47,1% as a way to focus or dope themselves. 35,3% scratch to punish themselves and 24,7% to have control. I can find no peculiar link between the specific choice of this method and what people scratch for and I would be interested in knowing your theories. Maybe there is no apparent link because scratching is not used as the main method of self-harm but as a substitute due to its practicality (only 11,2% of people use this method most, which is still the second most chosen method but is very far away behind cutting, chosen by 86%).

For 47,5%, the fear that scratching is not painful enough is deterrent, which suggests this method may not be fully satisfying, hence why it may be used as a substitute.

Top 3 reasons for using this method specifically
  1. Blood
  2. Painful enough
  3. Practical
  1. High level of pain
  2. Pain lasts long
  3. Practical
  1. Practical
  2. Less visible scars
  3. Easier to heal

Top 3 purposes per method
  1. To calm down
  2. To punish yourself
  3. To forget / stop thinking about something equal with to feel control
  1. To punish yourself
  2. To calm down
  3. To forget / stop thinking about something
  1. To calm down
  2. To forget / stop thinking about something
  3. To focus