Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

OBJECTIVE: To compare motives and premeditation between adolescent deliberate self-poisoners and self-cutters. METHOD: In a sample of 6,020 pupils aged 15 and 16 years who completed a self-report questionnaire, those who had deliberately cut themselves in the previous year (n = 220) were compared with those who had taken overdoses (n = 86). RESULTS: More adolescents who took overdoses than those who cut themselves said that they had wanted to die (66.7% versus 40.2%, chi2 = 14.94, p <.0001) and had wanted to find out if someone loved them (41.2% versus 27.8%, chi2 = 4.14, p =.042). Female self-cutters were more likely than male self-cutters to say that they had wanted to punish themselves (51.0% versus 25.0%, chi2 = 9.25, p =.002) and had tried to get relief from a terrible state of mind (77.2% versus 60.9%, chi2 = 4.78, p =.029). More self-cutters than self-poisoners had thought about the act of self-harm for less than an hour beforehand (50.9% versus 36.1%, chi2 = 5.25, p =.021). CONCLUSIONS: There are differences between adolescents' motives for overdoses and for self-cutting, and also gender differences in the reasons for self-cutting. The often impulsive nature of these acts (especially self-cutting) means that prevention should focus on encouraging alternative methods of managing distress, problem-solving, and help-seeking before thoughts of self-harm develop.

Original publication




Journal article


J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry

Publication Date





80 - 87


Adolescent, Drug Overdose, England, Female, Humans, Impulsive Behavior, Male, Motivation, Psychology, Adolescent, Residence Characteristics, Risk Factors, Self-Injurious Behavior, Sex Factors, Suicide, Attempted