Self-Injury Among Those With Eating Disorders & Addiction

What is Self-Injury?

Self-injury is a type of harm that a person purposely inflicts on their own body. This harm can come in a number of different forms. While to some self-injury seems ridiculous, for those who practice self-injury, it can be a hard habit to break. Self-injury may be used as a form of coping or as a way of relieving a feeling of numbness. Most of the time, those who self-injure do not know how to express their feelings. Due to this problem, they deal with any extreme emotions by inflicting harm on their body.

A person who self-injures typically experiences a number of other problems as well. Eating disorders and alcohol and drug addiction are two common issues dealt with by those who self-injure. When an eating disorder or addiction becomes too serious, assistance from an eating disorder treatment center or help from a drug rehab facility is necessary. In some cases, bulimia clinics and anorexia treatment facilities may be most helpful as they can provide specialized assistance to someone with an eating disorder. Psychological disorders are often seen in self-injurers as well. Many problems such as eating disorders, anxiety, and self-injury stem from abuse or trauma experienced earlier in life.

About 1% of the population in the United States today practices self-injury. Permanent scars and long-term pain can result from types of self-injury. Those who participate in self-injury are not attempting to commit suicide. Thinking about death however, may be common. Very rarely do those who self-injure have a desire to harm other people.

Types of Self-Injury

Self-injury takes places in a number of different forms. There is not one specific type of injurious behavior, although cutting is most commonly associated with self-harm. A few types of self-injury that your loved one may be struggling with include:

  • Using other objects to hit oneself
  • Burning, branding
  • Constant picking at the skin (often interfering with the healing process)
  • Hitting, bruising
  • Pulling at and pulling out hair (trichotillomania)
  • Biting
  • Purposely breaking or spraining bones
  • Cutting
  • Scratching of the skin (often with fingernails)

Self injury has a lot in common with eating disorders. Both of these problems are harmful and both are practiced for many of the same reasons. These reasons include an inability to cope, self-hatred, and numbness. Treatment for self-injury and eating disorder treatment are both available at a number of different facilities and eating disorder residential centers.

Why Self-Injure?

Why would someone choose to hurt themselves? The following list explains a few brief reasons why someone would choose to self-injure:

  • self-injury creates a manageable type of pain, externalizes pain
  • self-injury is often a cry for help
  • self injury may be a form of punishment to others (those who do not seem to care or pay much attention)
  • self-injury can relieve stress
  • self-injury can be a form of relief, create calmness
  • self-injury is an outlet used by those who do not know how to express intense feelings
  • self-injury is used as a form of self-punishment
  • self-injury enables a person to feel something, to feel “alive”

Some people assume that self-injury is the result of a failed suicide attempt. In fact, self-injury is often used as a way of avoiding suicide.

Eating disorders and abuse of alcohol or drugs are common problems among those who self-injure. Each of these problems can be equally damaging to a person’s physical and psychological body. Attending a rehab facility is an important step toward recovery from any of these problems. Drug treatment at a drug rehab facility or alcohol rehabilitation center can transform the life of someone with an addiction. Some treatment centers will also provide help for a person who self-injures since this may be a secondary condition.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.