Anyone Can Self-Harm, Not Just Those with Borderline

June 6, 2017 Natasha Tracy

While people associate self-harm with borderline personality disorder, not just people with borderline self-harm. Anyone can self-harm, self-injure.People with borderline personality disorder often self-harm, but that doesn’t mean they are the only people who do; let’s face it, anyone can self-harm. People associate self-harm with borderline personality disorder, which I understand, after all, self-harm is a symptom of borderline personality disorder. But it isn’t the case that these are the only people who self-harm. Self-harm can be a coping technique that anyone can pick up (unfortunately), whether they have a mental illness or not.

Self-Harm, Self-Injury in Borderline Personality Disorder

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), one symptom of borderline personality disorder is: “Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior.”

So, of course, self-harm is common for them.

But just because self-injury is a symptom of one disorder, doesn’t mean that it can’t be present in others, or in people with no illness at all; and, it doesn’t mean that just because you do it, you have borderline personality disorder. As the DSM-5 specifies, there are many other criteria for a borderline personality disorder diagnosis as well.

Why Anyone Can Self-Harm, Self-Injure

Yes, I have a history of self-harm, no, I do not have borderline personality disorder. And I can tell you that self-harm is simply a negative coping technique that I picked up as a child and have had a hard time dropping. I picked it up because I couldn’t deal with my intense emotions and environment when I was 12 years old. This is actually quite understandable when you look at a 12-year-old in an intense circumstance. Of course, he or she can’t deal with something beyond his or her age. It makes sense he or she would reach for any coping technique available and self-harm is available to anyone, even a child.

Although I started when I was 12, I continued into my adulthood and I still have self-harm urges to this day. I may not act on them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t plague my consciousness. Some argue that self-harm behaviors are an addiction and, thus, once you become addicted to the behavior, you will always be an addict and always have those urges. Your job is not to act on them.

And your job is not to allow the stigma against self-harm to affect your recovery. As I said, anyone can self-harm. And I believe anyone can stop self-harming, too.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2017, June 6). Anyone Can Self-Harm, Not Just Those with Borderline, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 25 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

Lizanne Corbit
June, 7 2017 at 4:15 pm

Great read. Self-harming behavior is absolutely not reserved only for people who are borderline. I think this is a very tricky subject because on the one hand, it's very stigmatized, on the other it's become a lot more common place for people to use light language with. It's important to remember that many people can suffer from this behavior, and like you said, it is most often a negative coping technique. We need to show people kindness and understanding when it comes to helping this behavior.

Leave a reply