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Why Do Young People Hurt Themselves

It may seem odd, says Dr. Matthew Nock, but self-injury serves many 'functions'

Clinical Expert: Matthew Nock, PhD

en Español

Harvard researcher and psychology professor Matthew Nock, PhD, describes the latest thinking about the reasons or “functions” that might drive people to self-injury. A key insight is that self-harm can have both a “positive” effect—creating a feeling, or communicating an idea—and a “negative” effect—getting rid of unwanted emotions, or stopping an activity.

Dr. Nock has also developed tools that may aid in predicting self-injurious and suicidal behavior. Check out the tests, and help with this important research, at Project Implicit Mental Health.


Related: Help for Cutting and Other Self-Injury

How Are Self-Injury and Suicide Related?

If you or someone you know needs help now, call 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

This article was last reviewed or updated on December 4, 2023.