What do we call it when someone injures himself on purpose because of a mental problem? For example, they cut their own flesh or something.


3 Answers 3


The generic terminology is self-harm:


: the act of purposely hurting oneself (as by cutting or burning the skin) as an emotional coping mechanism

• Although most cutters are young women who have been emotionally, sexually, or physically abused as children, [Marilee] Strong's research shows that this specific type of self-harm also appears in other groups. —Maria Simson et al.

As mentioned in a comment, and by Merriam-Webster, this can also be known as self-injury or self-mutilation.

  • Thank you. So what's the difference between this one and "self-laceration"? Are they interchangeable?
    – helen
    Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 18:11
  • 1
    Laceration is a specific type of harm. (As would be burning or other particular activities.) I think it would be more common to refer to harm in general. "They have a tendency to self-harm." "Oh, that's too bad." "What form does it take?" "Cutting" You would probably only say self-laceration if you wanted to specify the form of the harm right away. Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 18:19

If you're referring to any type of injury, then it can be called self-injury. If you're referring specifically to people who "cut their own flesh", then that's called cutting. Both of these words have verb forms.

This short passage from TeensHealth shows both the noun and verb forms of these words in action (emphasis added):

Injuring yourself on purpose by making scratches or cuts on your body with a sharp object — enough to break the skin and make it bleed — is called cutting. Cutting is a type of self-injury, or SI. People who cut often start cutting in their young teens. Some continue to cut into adulthood.

People may cut themselves on their wrists, arms, legs, or bellies. Some people self-injure by burning their skin with the end of a cigarette or lighted match.


We can use self-laceration which means:

the act or action of cutting or tearing one's own flesh

  • self-laceration is a psychological condition. Is this what you are looking for? Self-injury is also used. However, I can injure myself in any number of ways, not on purpose. Do you mean on purpose or not?
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 17:58
  • Yes, I mean on purpose.
    – helen
    Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 17:59
  • 1
    Ok, so you answered your own question. Sometimes self-injury is also used.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 18:01
  • I've never heard this term used before. I mean, anyone would understand it, but they would be confused about why you didn't just say cutting (common and meaning the same thing) or self-harm (also common, but less specific). I would recommend against using this term in AmE environments. Can't speak for BrE though Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 3:03

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