Home » Ask the Therapist » Scratches that Don’t Bleed, Punches that Won’t Bruise

Scratches that Don’t Bleed, Punches that Won’t Bruise

Asked by on with 1 answer:

I started self harming when I was 12. I punch myself in the leg as hard as I can. I will often be sore for days after. However, because I was born with cerebral palsy, I am not strong enough to leave bruises on myself. I recently began to scratch myself as another form of self harm. I will do this until I skin the area I’m scratching, however I am not able to make the area bleed. I have gotten mixed reviews about whether this counts as self harm. I often try to convince myself that because the punches won’t bruise, and because the scratches don’t bleed, it is not a serious issue. However, some of my closer friends have told me that is still should consider it more serious and that I need to stop before I go any further. What I’m wondering is, are behaviors intended to cause harm to oneself, but which do not cause visible tissue damage or bleeding, considered self harm?

Scratches that Don’t Bleed, Punches that Won’t Bruise

Answered by on -


Yes, your behaviors would be considered self-harm. Even if they’re not having the intended outcome of leaving bruises or drawing blood, it is still self-harm. Your intention is to hurt yourself. That is the definition of self-harm.

The natural next question is: why are you doing this to yourself? Self harm is self-destruction. People engage in self-harm when they don’t feel good about themselves or when they are trying to punish themselves or when they believe they deserve to suffer or when they are feeling so much emotional pain that self-harm is the only way they know to relieve that pain.

When people do not have the coping skills to deal with their emotional pain in psychologically healthy ways they often engage in acts of self-destruction. Some people drink alcohol. Some people use drugs. Some people go on shopping sprees or food binges and some people purposely injure their bodies.

Counseling could help you immensely. Speak to your parents or the school guidance counselor or any other trusted adult who you think can assist you in seeking help. You can learn a better way to manage your emotional pain with counseling. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Scratches that Don’t Bleed, Punches that Won’t Bruise

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist and Assistant Professor of Social Work and Forensics with extensive experience in the field of mental health. She works in private practice with adults, adolescents and families. Kristina has worked in a large array of settings including community mental health, college counseling and university research centers.

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2018). Scratches that Don’t Bleed, Punches that Won’t Bruise. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 7 Mar 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.