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Table 4 Range and bodily location of NSSI in autistic individuals

From: A ‘choice’, an ‘addiction’, a way ‘out of the lost’: exploring self-injury in autistic people without intellectual disability

Type of NSSI Percentage (%) of participants
Severely scratched or pinched with fingernails or other objects to the point that bleeding occurs or marks remain on the skin 72.4% (n = 55)
Cut wrists, arms, legs, torso or other areas of the body 50% (n = 38)
Banged or punched objects to the point of bruising or bleeding 44.6% (n = 33)
Punched or banged yourself to the point of bruising or bleeding 44.6% (n = 33)
Bitten yourself to the point that bleeding occurs or marks remain on the skin 41.2% (n = 31)
Intentionally prevented wounds from healing 38.2% (n = 29)
Ripped or torn skin 34.2% (n = 25)
Burned wrists, hands, arms, legs, torso or other areas of the body 30.1% (n = 22)
Rubbed glass into skin or stuck sharp objects such as needles, pins and staples into or underneath the skin (not including tattooing, body piercing or needles used for medication use) 27.6% (n = 21)
Carved words or symbols into the skin 20.5% (n = 15)
Engaged in fighting or other aggressive activities with the intention of getting hurt 11% (n = 8)
Tried to break your own bones 8.2% (n = 6)
Ingested a caustic substance(s) or sharp object(s) (bleach, other cleaning substances, pins, etc.) 6.8% (n = 5)
Banging head against walls, hard surfaces 6.8% (n = 5)
Broke your own bones 2.7% (n = 2)
Dripped acid onto skin 2.7% (n = 2)
Pulled out hair, eyelashes or eyebrows (with the intention of hurting yourself) 1.7% (n = 1)
Other (avoided taking medication or seeking healthcare as a form of self-harm; tried to choke/strangle myself; took small overdoses of paracetamol or paracetamol; poured boiling water over hands; provoking an animal to bite; trying to get hit by traffic; tried to set myself alight; dropped heavy objects onto myself; tried dropping off heights; masturbated with metal objects that caused me to bleed) 24.7% (n = 18)
Bodily site of NSSI
Arms 61.8% (n = 47)
Hands 58.1% (n = 43)
Head 47.4% (n = 36)
Wrists 42.5% (n = 31)
Face 35.1% (n = 26)
Fingers 31.6% (n = 24)
Stomach or chest 31.5% (n = 23)
Thighs 28.8% (n = 21)
Calves or ankles 14.5% (n = 11)
Lips or tongue 13.7% (n = 10)
Shoulders or neck 11.8% (n = 9)
Breasts 9.2% (n = 7)
Genitals or rectum 6.6% (n = 5)
Feet 2.7% (n = 2)
Back 2.7% (n = 2)
Eyes 1.4% (n = 1)
Initial motivation for NSSI
I was angry with myself. 38.2% (n = 29)
I accidentally discovered it—I had never seen or heard of it before. 38.2% (n = 29)
I was upset and decided to try it 30.3% (n = 23)
I was angry with someone else. 15.1% (n = 11)
It felt good. 15.1% (n = 11)
I wanted someone to notice me and/or my injuries. 11% (n = 8)
I cannot remember. 8.2% (n = 6)
I wanted to shock or hurt someone. 27.7% (n = 2)
It seemed to work for other people I know. 27.7% (n = 2)
I did it because I had friends who did it and I wanted to fit in. 27.7% (n = 2)
I saw it on a movie/television or read about it in a book and decided to try it. 27.7% (n = 2)
I read about it on the internet and decided to try it. 1.4% (n = 1)
It was part of a dare. 1.4% (n = 1)
Other (‘Whilst not remembering the exact first time, I know it was initially an attempt to FEEL my own self-loathing—to be able to grasp and feel the feeling’; ‘It reduced my stress’; ‘I was having what I now know was a meltdown and did it in desperation to “do” something’; ‘I needed to do so something to ease the pain I felt inside’; ‘I hated myself’; ‘It just happened. It was like a compulsion and I could not control myself at all’; ‘I copied my dad’; ‘I wanted to be humiliated, “told you so”’; ‘I was so stressed’; ‘I just wanted out of the situation I was in’; ‘I was frustrated by other people’s talking and noise and rule-breaking and needed something to distract me’; ‘I was depressed’; ‘Boredom’; ‘I was so frustrated, cornered, it felt like the last resort’; ‘I was trying to understand what had happened to me at a doctor’s surgery’; ‘full of self-hatred and confusion’.) 21.1% (n = 16)
  1. Participants report the their methods of self-injury, the bodily areas most commonly targeted and initial motivations for starting