Deliberate Self Harm

Deliberate self-harm refers to any attempt by an individual to harm himself or herself. When assessing injuries, it is important to understand which factors may indicate the possibility that an injury was caused by deliberate

Table 4

Indicators of Possible Deliberate Self-Harm Injuries

• Must be on an area of body accessible to the person to injure themselves.

• Superficial or minor.

• Regular with an equal depth at the beginning and end (for cuts).

• Regular and similar in style or shape (for scratches, burns, etc.).

• Parallel or grouped together.

• In right-handed persons, the injuries are predominantly on the left side (and the converse for left-handed individuals).

• There may be lesser injuries where initial attempts at self-harm are made (tentative scars).

• There may be old scars of previous self-harm.

• There may be a psychiatric history.

self-harm. Individuals injure themselves for numerous reasons, including psychiatric illness and others, such as attempting to imply events took place that did not or for motives of gain. Self-inflicted injuries have several characteristics, which are not diagnostic but that together may give an indication of self-infliction. Table 4 lists features that may assist in the recognition or suspicion that cuts or other injury, such as scratches, are self-inflicted—all or some may be present—their absence does not preclude self-infliction nor does their presence necessarily imply self-infliction (2).

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