How to answer questions about self harm scars

How to answer questions about self harm scarsQuestions about self-harm scars and dating, sex and intimacy cause many people with visible self-harm scars to worry: “Are self-harm scars a turn-off?” “Should I try to hide my scars from my partner?” “When is it appropriate to explain my scars to a partner, and how can I best approach this type of conversation?” What are the right answers to these questions about self-harm scars and dating?

The right answer for you will vary depending on a whole host of factors, including your self-harm history, where you are in self-harm recovery, and your partner’s familiarity with self-harm. Ultimately, the decision is up to you. You are in control of your own narrative and there is no obligation on your part to do things one way or the other. If you are having trouble with answering questions about your self-harm scars and dating, however, here are some general guidelines that I find to be helpful.

Self-Harm Scars and Dating Casually

Yes, self-harm scars are a turn-off to some people. This does not mean that those people are bad people or not worth our time. There are many reasons someone might not choose to date someone with self-harm scars, most of which are not related to vanity. Unless the person was rude about your scars, there is no need to take it personally (Keeping Calm When Others Put You Down).

The good news is, a lot of people — especially casual partners — will not mind the scars too much. In these cases, you may not feel the need to bring the issue up at all. If you do feel the need, or if your partner asks, you could say that the scars are from self-harm without going into detail. Another option is to make up another explanation for the scars, which either the partner will believe or take as a cue that this is not something you would like to discuss.

Self-Harm Scars and Serious Relationships

In a more serious relationship, or a relationship that seems as though it has the potential to be serious, you may feel that you want to talk to your partner about your self-harm scars more in-depth. There is no easy to way to broach this subject, but it is for the wellbeing of your relationship.

The good news, again, is that many people will respond with compassion, and respect you for having the courage to speak with them about it. Your partner only wants to know that you are okay now and that self-harm will not interfere with the relationship. How you approach the conversation is up to you, but it may be helpful to include the above concerns.

All in all, the most important thing is that you feel comfortable with yourself and whatever decisions you make. Your scars will always be more noticeable to you than to anyone else, so your comfort should always come first. The scars are only a part of you and your story, and so should only be a part of your love life. There is no need to let them stand in the way of enjoying a variety of fun and fulfilling relationships.

How to answer questions about self harm scars

There are ways to explain self-harm scars to children, but I haven’t always known what to say. When I was in my first year of college I had a job working with children at a daycare. Children are curious by nature and they ask a lot of questions about their surroundings. If something is “out of the norm” they are going to ask questions about it. One night, I wore a dress which showed a few of my scars. I had a small child come up and ask me, “Teacher, what happened to your leg?”

If you are suffering or have suffered from self-harm and have small children around you, you might run into this question once or twice. It might be stressful when they ask these questions. What do you say? How much do you tell them? Here are a few tips that have helped me through this awkward situation.

What to Consider Before Explaining Self-Harm Scars to Children

There are a few things you should keep in mind before you start talking to a child about self-harm. How do you know this child? You are going to be more truthful to a child that you know more than you would with a child at daycare. How old are they? Depending on the age of the child you are going to tell them different information. These are two important things to consider before you respond.

What to Explain to Children About Self-Harm Scars

Depending on the age of the child you might tell them different pieces of information. You might not want to tell a child who is very young about your past. When young children ask about your scars, you can make up a story like:

  • I got attacked by a tiger.
  • I fell into a rose bush.
  • I hugged a porcupine too hard.

Most of the time young children will be satisfied with this answer and move on. Older children are not unintelligent and they know that you did not get attacked by a real tiger. For older children, if you feel comfortable, you can just bend the truth. This could include:

  • I got into an accident.
  • I accidentally hurt myself when I was younger.
  • When I was angry I would take it out on myself.

Explaining Self-Harm Scars to Children Can Lead to Positive Conversations

When children start asking these questions it can be a great segue way to start discussing other areas of mental health with them. When they ask, you can tell them the truth. Talk to them about positive and negative coping skills when they are stressed. This is a great way to build a positive relationship with your children. If you are talking about emotions with them then you seem like a safe person to talk to when they need someone to talk to.

Being Ready to Explain Your Self-Harm Scars With Children

When you talk about self-harm with children make sure you are, personally, ready to start talking about it. Talking about self-harm can be triggering for some. You never know what children are going to ask. You need to be personally ready to start talking openly about your recovery before you can discuss it with children.

I would like to open this post to you. Have you ever been in this situation? How did it go? What did you tell them? Do you have any tips for those of us who want to tell a child? Let me know down in the comments.

APA Reference
Schou , K. (2017, August 29). Ways to Explain Self-Harm Scars to Children, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, August 11 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2017/08/explaining-self-harm-scars-to-children

Author: Kristen Schou

I think honesty is important, especially with children. Children are smarter than we adults give them credit for. Lying will only create mistrust.
Explaining that self harm to a child, let’s say age 9 and smart:
When I was young I didn’t know how to express my emotions and I would get really sad or mad at myself and I would take it out on myself. I was a bully to myself. I hurt myself when I didn’t understand what I was feeling or when I didn’t know how to ask others for help. But with the right help, with a counselor, I was able to learn how to identify my own emotions and I learned how to express my emotions and most importantly, I learned to ask for help when I was upset or sad. I healed because I asked for help when I needed it. Self harm Scars are the same as battle wounds , a battle with yourself. I’ve won because I am brave and I ask for help.

I started self harming in year 7 (12 years old), it started mild but over the years it became life threatening. I was in and out of hospitals for stiches almost every night of the week. At 15 my mother was told to start planning a funeral for me because I was told at the rate I was going I will not make it to 16. My little brother 7 at the time asked my mother what my scars were from. She told him that I hurt myself. It made him very very upset and he started trying to harm himself too. I saw that and I stopped self harming. My mother became an alcoholic so I stood up and became a mother figure for my brother. One night I got him out of the bath and I was putting him to bed. I wasn’t wearing long sleeves because my scars were faiding. Then my brother pointed at my arm and asked “what happened”, and I decided to tell him “the angels tried taking me home, but I fought, and they ended up hurting me but I won”, now I’m 16, and last week he said to me “I’m glad the angels didn’t win”. Now he also saw someone down the street with scars, he pointed at them and told me “she won too!! Can I give her a hug”, I walked up to the stranger and just started a conversation. I told the woman that my brother wants to give her a hug. I explained that I am a survivor too, and what I told him about what my scars are from.
She smiled so much and got a hug from my brother. My biggest fear is when I have children what will I tell them? Then I realised I don’t wanna lie to them and make up some story. So I will tell them about how the angels tried taking me home but I wasn’t ready. Then when they become older I’ll explain to them why I said that. Which is:
Life became so hard so I decided I wanted to go to heaven. The angels kept trying to take me. But I survived, I decided heaven can wait.

In reply to I started self harming in… by Anonymous (not verified)

When you are struggling with self-harm, it is very rare that when someone asks about a visible cut or burn, you will answer with the truth. There are the occasional few who will honestly answer that question and admit to their struggle without embarrassment or insecurity. While that kind of behavior does occur once in a while, more times than not people who self-harm use cover stories for self-harm scars.

It is absolutely natural to instantly feel on edge when someone points out a self-injury mark that has visibly snuck out from hiding behind a bracelet or your sleeve. Since self-harm is something many do in the privacy of their own space, having others jumping in on that privacy can feel extremely uncomfortable. When that awkwardness starts setting in, a lie is usually created quickly and without much thought.

And most of the time, that covery story for self-harm scars is not believable.

It can be tough when you’re stuck between telling the truth and making up a cover story to hide your self-harm struggle. You don’t want to feel like a liar because you are making up a story, but you don’t want to tell the world about your battle just yet. In that moment, when someone is making you face this dilemma, the best route is to follow your heart – even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.

Self-Harm Scars
How to answer questions about self harm scars

Recently I was playing with my feisty miniature schnauzer when I noticed a scratch he’d given me on my forearm. Of course, my mind immediately went to how ironic the scratch placement was and how uncomfortable it made me. Even after six years without an intentional cut, little scratches in places where I used to cut myself still make me uneasy. I started wondering what loved ones (who knew about my past) would think if they saw it and if they’d automatically assume I’d been self-harming again. This time, however, my story wouldn’t be a self-harm cover story.

This scenario brought me back to when I used to lie about where my marks had come from. Only a few times had people actually asked what had happened and I can still remember almost every lie I told: “my cat scratched me” and “I had a weird reaction to my color guard gloves were two of my most famous.”

To Tell or Not to Tell a Cover Story: Is That Really the Question?

However, I think the real question is: why has the idea of self-harm remained such a taboo topic? Why do people who self-injure still feel as if they will be automatically judged once people know about their battle? In truth, I think this is the case because those who self-harm often hide their struggle (see: Why I Self-Harm) (which is understandable). With that, people see self-harm as secretive, mysterious and, obviously, unsafe.

Do not feel as if you must tell those who ask about your scars details about your self-harm. Your struggle is private and if people genuinely question the marks, do what feels most comfortable to you in the moment. If it is to tell a little white lie, so be it. However, know that the more you self-harm, the more questions may arise and sooner or later, your self-harm cover stories stories will grow thin.

Stay true to yourself and stop the self-harm. Once you stop self-injuring, so will the stories.

How to answer questions about self harm scars

Explaining your self-harm scars to others can be uncomfortable. Having your self-harm scars discovered is a bit like being outed against your will. Still, the person who confronts you about your self-injury marks will likely want to know what they are. While you don’t owe anyone an explanation, sometimes it’s hard to avoid this conversation. Here are some of the approaches you can take to explain your self-harm scars to others.

3 Ways to Explain Your Self-Harm Scars

Depending on who is asking about your self-harm scars, you might not always want to give the same explanation. Here are the three ways in which I usually deal with this situation:

  1. Answer truthfully: I believe it’s best to be open and honest about our scars. Avoiding the truth only feeds into the narrative that self-harm is a shameful act. If the person is genuinely concerned or willing to learn, consider telling that person about self-harm.
  2. Find believable excuses: Sometimes, you might not feel like telling the truth. That’s okay; not everyone is confident about their scars, and you should only speak out when you’re ready. In that case, find excuses that look believable, such as a home renovation accident.
  3. Refuse to answer: Finally, if the person asking is rude or disrespectful, don’t feel obliged to tell the truth. You may politely say it’s none of that person’s business or even make a humorous remark that deflates the situation.

In this video, I’ll give you examples of the most common answers I typically give to people in different situations. How do you explain your self-harm scars to others? Let me know in the comments.

9 December 2016

Becci, 22, self-harmed for six years. She is now learning to live with the scars which that period of her life left behind.

She told her story in a film for the BBC. In response, people sent Becci their questions on living with self-harm. She answers them below:

I have a 15-year-old daughter who has just started self harming. In your view, what is the best thing I can do to help her?

I spoke to my mum about this, as being the person who is self-harming, it can be very difficult to see things from another perspective. Self-harm can be a selfish illness which stems from a much more complex background, so try asking indirect questions about how school is, if she has plans with friends – things that might have affected her.

But above everything, just reassure her that, although you can’t and probably will never understand why she feels it’s the right way to deal with a situation, you will be there to support her, regardless of what she may say.

Expect many arguments, tears, and at times complete hopelessness, from both of you; but remember that with the right support, love and care, there will be an end.

I’m so glad she felt she could tell you, because the battle becomes so much easier when there is someone else fighting by your side.

How do you cope when people make negative comments? How do you stop it lowering your self-esteem?

It can still be difficult to this day to brush off a negative comment, and act like it doesn’t affect me.

But what is best to bear in mind is that these people who make negative comments have no idea of your story; they don’t know the ins and outs of your life, and probably never will, because it is your story.

As soon as you can recognise this, it becomes a lot easier to brush off people’s negative comments.

There are always going to be people who don’t understand you, or perhaps don’t want to, and the only way to show them that what they think doesn’t affect you, is to not let it affect you.

It can take a long time to work up the confidence to do this, but once you realise that you are living the most positive life you can, the confidence will follow.

How to answer questions about self harm scars

Explaining your self-harm scars to others can be uncomfortable. Having your self-harm scars discovered is a bit like being outed against your will. Still, the person who confronts you about your self-injury marks will likely want to know what they are. While you don’t owe anyone an explanation, sometimes it’s hard to avoid this conversation. Here are some of the approaches you can take to explain your self-harm scars to others.

3 Ways to Explain Your Self-Harm Scars

Depending on who is asking about your self-harm scars, you might not always want to give the same explanation. Here are the three ways in which I usually deal with this situation:

  1. Answer truthfully: I believe it’s best to be open and honest about our scars. Avoiding the truth only feeds into the narrative that self-harm is a shameful act. If the person is genuinely concerned or willing to learn, consider telling that person about self-harm.
  2. Find believable excuses: Sometimes, you might not feel like telling the truth. That’s okay; not everyone is confident about their scars, and you should only speak out when you’re ready. In that case, find excuses that look believable, such as a home renovation accident.
  3. Refuse to answer: Finally, if the person asking is rude or disrespectful, don’t feel obliged to tell the truth. You may politely say it’s none of that person’s business or even make a humorous remark that deflates the situation.

In this video, I’ll give you examples of the most common answers I typically give to people in different situations. How do you explain your self-harm scars to others? Let me know in the comments.

It can be difficult to know how to talk to your friends, family or a health professional about self-harm. But many people feel more supported and less alone after talking to someone.

Tips to help you tell someone about self-harm

find someone you can trust – such as a close friend, family member, trained volunteer, health or other professionals

decide on the right time or place to talk to someone – it may feel easier to write something down, talk online or call and practise what you want to say first

let the person know that what you’re sharing may be a shock to them, but you’re looking for help – ask to continue the conversation another time if the other person feels distressed or you’re interrupted

try to talk honestly and openly – be clear about how you’re feeling, why you’re asking for help and things they may be able to do

let the other person ask questions – but do not feel you have to answer them all right now

decide if you want to show the other person any injuries or scars – if you’re talking to a health professional they may want to check if you need treatment

Further information and support

The mental health charity Mind has more information on their website about:

More in Self-harm

Page last reviewed: 23 July 2020
Next review due: 23 July 2023

Last post: 16/11/2017 at 4:31 am

Had anyone had their child ask about their scars before and if so what did you tell them?

I used to self harm when I was younger but stopped a long time ago. However, I have very noticable scars on my forearm. My children are too young to have asked yet but while my daughter was sitting with me yesterday she ran her fingers over the scars and said “oh, bumpy!” It got me wondering what I would say if she asks as she gets older. I really have no idea what I would tell her.

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I say mine are from cat scratches i didnt have a cat but no one knows that lol

Maternal mental health

self harm scars -work interview/short sleaved uniform

Maternal mental health

Self harm and baby

Maternal mental health

Head banging/self harm

Maternal mental health

scared of having children. Help.

I can see you’ve had a couple of responses already :hug:. I know that some of our mums on our Mental Health Support forum have self-harmed and it may be that on that board you’d get more people who have already tackled this issue in their own lives. If you’d like your post moved over so you can get more peer support, please do click on ‘report it’ and ask our Mods to move it for you

Lol, wish I could get away with saying it was a cat!

My daughter is only two at the moment so I prob don’t need to worry about it just yet but I like to be prepared just in case!

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Do you think you won’t be able to get away with saying that?

My dd is three so has never asked but my brother and sister and 7 an 9 (respectively) and they have asked and I told them when they were little, too little to remember :), that I had a cat and it scratched me all the time and I got rid of it.

Have you been using anything on your scars? To try and help th fade that is lol

I tell my children that Mummy was ill and part of that illness meant that Mummy got sores on her arms and legs, like some illnesses like chicken pox and measles can give you spots or a rash, well Mummy’s illness meant that she got sores and now the sores have healed up, but have left a mark.

I don’t feel comfortable saying that they’re from a cat or anything like that- I want to be totally honest with them right from the start, but in an age appropriate way iyswim.

Maternal mental health

If I admit how I feel will they take my child?

Maternal mental health

Scared to have more children. any advice.

Maternal mental health

I read this quote on a website:

“Oh, they’re scars, they happen when skin gets broken and it heals. That’s why you should be careful when you. “

I thought it was quite good because it’s not lying, but it does change the subject slightly.

I read this quote on a website:

“Oh, they’re scars, they happen when skin gets broken and it heals. That’s why you should be careful when you. “

I thought it was quite good because it’s not lying, but it does change the subject slightly.

I told my kids a similar thing, I said I got hurt a long time ago, long before they were born (not 100% true.) Then they asked if I was being silly at the time and I said yes. It’s true but not in the way they thought it meant. My brother’s gf has a lot of scars too and they’ve never asked about that, but if they did I’d tell them she must have hurt herself somehow and that it’s rude to ask personal questions.

Oh god this is something I have been deliberating myself over. My daughter asked me when she was 2, I just said they were ‘marks’. But I know I’m going to need to come up with something better than that as she gets older. The trouble is I feel terrible lying, but then of course it’s not appropriate to tell her the truth until she is much older.

Many years ago I fell into a full length mirror that was propped up against a wall and it shattered all around me. I got a couple of scars from that. I’m wondering whether to just say the sh scars are as a result of that too, thus making it a lie based on some truth? What do you think?