Self-Harm On Social Media

Self-Harm On Social Media: What You Need To Know



As of July 2023, approximately 60% of the world’s population uses some form of social media. Most of these people spend an average of two hours daily on it, equating to around 500,000 updates, likes, shares, and tweets every minute.

This widespread and increased social media usage offers us greater convenience and connectivity. In today’s digital age, it’s also helpful for online learning, online banking, and work opportunities for remote employment. However, it doesn’t come without risks. 

Among the most alarming is the persistent prevalence of content about self-harm on social networks. This perpetuates social contagion, triggering others to do the same or normalizing the behavior. 

What is Self-Harm?

Self-harm, formally called non-suicidal self-injury disorder (NSSID), is the action of physically hurting oneself intentionally but without suicidal intent. It’s inflicted on any part of the body, but more typically on wrists, hands, thighs, and stomach. 

Here are common examples of self-harm:

  • Punching objects
  • Punching oneself
  • Cutting the skin
  • Burning the skin
  • Embedding of foreign objects (such as safety pins) under the skin

People engage in self-harm as a coping mechanism. It’s not only to self-punish but also helps them alleviate overwhelming negative emotions, deal with numbness by generating feelings, and make a physical sign of emotional distress. 

Surprisingly, this idea of relieving emotional pain through physical pain has a scientific basis. A study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology discovered that physical pain made the test subjects feel emotionally better. 

Is Self-Harm A Mental Illness? 

Self-harm is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the primary guide for mental health providers in the United States. This means it requires further study, so it is not an official illness but rather a disorder. 

Treatment for self-harm may or may not be covered by insurance providers. To avoid paying too much, know what Medicare does not cover first. If it does not cover the treatment a doctor advises, do not lose hope.

There are other cost-effective options to try, including:

  • Therapists with Sliding Scales
  • Low-Cost Clinics
  • Online Therapies
  • Workplace Resources
  • Student Therapists
  • Support Organizations
  • Religious Counsels

Self-Harm on Social Media

Most social media platforms prohibit content that suggests self-harm. Instagram, in particular, bans pictures depicting self-harm. However, a study claimed that 80% of users came across them accidentally.

For example, if you type “#cat” on Instagram, many cat-related posts are associated with scratching injuries. Users wishing to post self-harm-related content can use this hashtag to avoid getting flagged or blocked. The good thing is the platform has recently rolled out a new reporting tool as a preventive measure. 

social media platforms

Many users, especially teens, turn to social media for escape, support, or even education about self-harm. Researchers also found that they post self-harm-related content to find community and experience a sense of belonging.

However, although it may provide a healthy outlet, social media is not the perfect place to address self-harm and co-occurring mental health concerns. In most cases, it cannot solve the psychological distress that causes the behavior.

Potential Risks of Self-Harm On Social Media 

Social media users who post about self-harm have more clinical symptoms. These include lower resilience, more cravings for self-injury, and more suicidal ideation than those who do not post online yet still self-harm. 

Escaping into online social media to seek support may only further isolate social media users from offline relationships and communities. What social media usually does is only an artificial sense of belonging. 

Online connections can never replace face-to-face connections because brain chemistry and neuronal synchronization only happen through limbic resonance or in-person attunement. In simpler terms, brain waves synchronize when people interact in person. 

Another worrying risk of self-harm-related content on social media is its exposure to children and adolescents, especially those who are unfamiliar with self-harm. They could be curious about it and try it themselves, causing them to hurt themselves unintentionally.

What To Do If Someone Does Self-Harm? 

If you suspect someone engages in acts of self-harm, he or she may demonstrate severe underlying distress. Note that self-harm is similar to addiction, which means it cannot always be stopped easily and immediately.

The underlying cause of their distress should be identified and addressed to protect their well-being in the long term. As such, consulting a medical professional specializing in this field is the best solution, not from the opinionated world of social media. 

Additionally, fostering a supportive, open environment is something you can personally do for them. This assures them that you are a safe person who isn’t judgemental and will not have a prejudice against them. 

If the self-injuring person is young, never regard their behavior as a phase or attention-seeking. It could be hard to accept and empathize but understand that whoever goes to such extreme lengths for attention needs help.

Final Thoughts

Posting content about self-harm on social media is unfortunately becoming widespread nowadays. This is very concerning since such behavior contributes to social contagion. It shouldn’t be normalized but instead intervened appropriately

Read Also:

Tags content about self-harm examples of self-harm self-harm on social networks
author image

With an adept skill of curating content on multiple genres, Mony has harnessed success as a Content Writer quickly. Find her sharing her profound thoughts and opinions on social media, lifestyle, beauty, and social business.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *