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How can we understand whether a person is self harming for attention or if it comes from a feeling of worthlessness?

19 Answers
Last Updated: 05/12/2018 at 1:26pm
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
Moderated by

Lindsay Scheinerman, MA, LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

My work with clients is to help them recognize and build on their strengths to find solutions for the conflicts presented in their lives.

Top Rated Answers
September 1st, 2015 11:47am
Self Harming for attention is often seen as something people don't do, though it may be more common than we think. If a person is self harming for attention they need just as much help and support as somebody who is not, this is equally as unhealthy. To decipher and understand whether a person is self harming for attention or from a feeling of worthlessness may come down to the way the individual reacts. For attention, the person may not try to lie or hide their self harm as much as somebody who is not, and may feel a 'pleased' sense when somebody does notice. Though it is often looked down upon, it is important to remember that just because somebody does self harm for attention it does not mean that they do not need the equal amount of help.
February 14th, 2015 12:26am
You shouldn't ever assume someone is self harming for attention. Sometimes people do show their self harm around but that doesn't mean they want attention it could just be a cry for help. Sometimes people who have emotional problems dont know how to ask for help so they show they need help on their bodies instead.
September 22nd, 2015 6:06pm
Usually a person who does it for attention will show it off to friends for no real apparent reason and will act like it's no big deal, but if it's because of feeling worthless, they will usually hide it and apologize a lot for it if you find out.
November 16th, 2015 9:45am
Self harming is never for attention. There must be some underlying reasoning behind the self harm acts, and finding out those reasons is important. Never underestimate a person, or what they are going through.
May 1st, 2015 6:51am
The question should not be: "Is this person self-harming for attention or not?" but rather, one should consider the implications that doing such an act holds. It does not matter if they have self-harmed for attention, or any other possible reason that may seem incomprehensible, petty, or stupid to another; what matters is that they have taken a blade to their skin, melted away their flesh, or some other means to self-harm. Whether or not that person chooses to publicly expose their self-harm, it should always be a sign that they are not in a good place. And in fact, if a person does expose their self-harm for attention, one must consider the fact that they must really need it if they had to go to such lengths.
December 13th, 2016 6:46am
It is both. Someone who is self-harming needs attention, but we've attached such a stigma to asking for help that even THAT is negative. They need attention in the form of compassion, love, and understanding. Give them the attention they need and the help they deserve, because likely they are feeling quite worthless and they need somebody to show them a little empathy.
October 27th, 2015 9:57am
People who self-harm for attention are confident, and believe in themselves even while they hurt themselves. People who don't self-harm for the attention are shyer, and worried, and never feel like they do anything right.
May 12th, 2018 1:26pm
I know from personal experience that people don’t cut for attention people cut because a close friend or a family member died, or they just like the feeling, or even maybe because they don’t know how to handle there emotions. But when people show there cuts to there friends or family that means they want you to help, and when they show you every time they cut that means they trust you and they really want you too help them. So never assume that somebody cuts for attention.
April 25th, 2015 7:58am
I think selfharm always comes from a deep feeling and a serious problem of the mind. Because a person who makes it "just for attantion" needs the attention so strong that he or she will even hurt her/hisself. And hurting your own body is a massive border you are crossing.
December 8th, 2015 2:38am
by talking to them. i used to do both. and honestly it doesn't matter. if you cut yourself you need help. then reason does not matter.
April 18th, 2017 12:12am
It's a good idea to never think self harm is for attention. There are so many different reasons a person hurts themselves, and there isn't an overall "why" that you can apply to every case. The best way to help is to not assume, but to instead reach out to the person with an open mind and compassionate heart, and let them tell you what self harm means to them. That's the best way to understand and to create a plan to move forward.
May 2nd, 2015 8:54am
you cant and thats the problem. and thats why everyone is accused of doing it for attention. its a pain, but its done now, and you cant change what people think of it now.
July 25th, 2016 6:02am
One way we can see if a person is self harming for attention is the way they deal with having the wounds. Whether they get upset that nobody notices they are harming. How they go about hiding said wounds. Who they tell about it.
January 16th, 2018 12:39am
Self-harm whatever the cause or reason, is still a serious matter and should be considered as a cry for help. However, I will point out that from what I know, a person that may be self-harming for attention will usually be quite open about it, or perhaps letting others know about it "by accident". Someone who may be self-harming due to genuine feelings of worthlessness, will often go to great lengths just to hide their self-harming behaviours. But please remember that everyone is different and people that do self-harm or have considered the idea, are in need of great support and kindness and do not need judgemental comments or negative confrontations. This will only make matters worse. Nevertheless, please do not be reluctant to help this person, even if you feel like they are using self-harm to attract attention to themselves. Dismissing any kind of self-harm will only exacerbate their need for attention and could potentially lead them to cause more severe harm to themselves.
June 6th, 2015 4:45am
You can't just tell from looking at a person and you can't be do quick to judge. A person you is harming for attention is still feeling not worth it because they are hurting themselves for other people
March 2nd, 2018 7:42am
I’m sure there may be people who possibly do this for attention. But this happened to me and I was terrified and ashamed. My mental state was not good and I was convinced my husband hated me. I barely remember deciding to cut myforearm. Anyways I found such a calm I don’t remember the other cuts.
June 14th, 2016 12:23pm
You can't tell. It's sometimes a combination of both, it's sometimes one or the other. The best way to find out is by asking.
January 4th, 2016 11:38pm
be honest lying just comes back to haunt you. if someone is self harming because they feel worthless talk to them and try to guide them out of self harm and towards something else.
December 7th, 2015 6:09pm
each persons circumstances are different for why they start - yes some do start for attention, but most start to feel something.