Addiction to self-harm? the case of online postings on self-harm message boards

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15 Citations (Scopus)


Presently, there is limited research investigating the addictive nature of self-harm, even though non-suicidal self-injury disorder has been included in the DSM-V (American Psychiatric Association 2013) for over 5 years. The aim of the present study was to build on the existing literature by examining self-harm discussions on Internet message boards to examine if themes related to addiction are present. A sample of 500 online postings from four forums were analysed to examine whether self-harm has an addictive nature. Postings were extracted, read, and re-read before being coded using inductive content analysis to identify themes. Six themes were identified: “Urge/Obsession”, “Relapse”, “Can’t/Don’t want to stop”, “Coping mechanism”, “Hiding/Shame”, and “Getting worse/Not enough”. Postings revealed there can be cravings to engage in self-harm behaviour, not wanting or being able to stop, returning to the behaviour, self-harm being a coping mechanism, shame, and the behaviour becoming worse. This study has demonstrated that repetitive self-harming seems to have addictive aspects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1020-1035
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health and Addiction
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Addiction
  • Content analysis
  • Internet
  • Self-harm


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