A study published in 2006, Self-injurious Behaviors in a College Population, by Whitlock et al., looked at the self-injurious behavior of over 2800 college students. Seventeen percent of the respondents reported self-injurious behavior. According to that study, the ten most common ways to self-harm were:1
Scratching or pinching – this behavior included severely scratching or pinching with fingernails or objects to the point that bleeding occurred or marks remained on the skin. This method of self-injury was seen in more than half of all students who reported participating in self-harm. (Watch interview on Dermatillomania: The Secret of Compulsive Skin Picking)
Impact with objects – this self-harm behavior included banging or punching objects to the point of bruising or bleeding. This way to self-harm was seen in just over 37% of the self-harming students.
Cutting – while cutting is often considered synonymous with self-harm, this way of self-mutilation only occurred in just over 1-in-3 students who reported self-harming. Cutting is more common among females.
Impact with oneself – this self-injury method includes banging or punching oneself to the point of bruising or bleeding. This way to self-injure was seen in almost 25% of the students who reported self-harming behaviors.
Ripped skin – this way of self-mutilation includes ripping or tearing skin. This type of self-injury was seen in just under 16% of those who admitted to self-harming behaviors.
Carving – this way of self-harm is when a person carves words or symbols into the skin. This is separate from cutting. This method of self-mutilation was identified by just under 15% of those who self-harm.
Interfering with healing – this way of self-mutilation is often in combination with other types of self-harm. In this case, a person purposefully hampers the healing of wounds. This method of self-harm was used by 13.5% of respondents.
Burning – burning skin is a way of self-mutilation. Burning as a way of self-injury was seen in 12.9% of students who self-harmed.
Rubbing objects into the skin – this type of self-harm involves the rubbing of sharp objects, such as glass, into the skin. Twelve percent of responding students used this way to self-harm.
Hair-pulling – this way to self-harm is medically known as trichotillomania. In trichotillomania, a person feels compelled to pull out their own hair and in some cases even ingest that hair. This type to self-injury was seen in 11% of students who self-harmed.
One thing to note, 70% of those who repeatedly self-harm use multiple ways to self-harm with the majority reporting between 2-4 self-injury methods used.