Spotting The Signs

This short section aims to give you some clues to whether someone is self-harming, but is not a definitive guide. People who self-harm are often very secretive about their struggles, and don’t want anyone to know what they are doing. To this end, they become very good secret keepers.

The most obvious sign may be that you notice scratches, cuts, burns or scars that seem to defy the explanation given. When asked about them, the person may become uncharacteristically defensive, growing more and more guarded, anxious and vague.
Another cover-up method you may notice is the person’s insistence on wearing long sleeves or long skirts and trousers regardless of the weather. Many self-harmers say that people first found out about their self-harm in summer.

If you are living with someone who is self-harming, you may notice that they behave differently. They may seem distracted, preoccupied or distant, or emotionally absent. They may also seem to spend more time on their own, shut in their room, retreating to their own private space to injure themselves.

Other signs to look out for are behaviours that are related to and often accompany self-harm. Go to our Related Struggles page for more information.

The easiest way to find out if someone you care about is self-harming is to ask them. You may find that they either deny it or don’t want to talk to you about it, but at least you will have been able to let them know that you care enough to ask and given them an option to talk to you in future. There is some guidance to approaching people you suspect are self-harming on our How To Respond Page.