is self-mutilation a mortal sin that must be confessed?

I think it should be mentioned as the priest could give you good motivation to stop, but it’s part of a mental illness, so I don’t really think it would be a sin.

Deliberately harming your body is a sin. No question about it. I don’t know for.sure, but I think that the doctrine is that it is mortal if your life is put in danger as a result.

Well there is a question.

Smoking harms the body, but is not sinful.

And for something to be sinful free will is involved.

Is free will involved in self harming?

Self mutilation (cutting, piercing, etc) are signs of significant emotional abuse. About 90% of all cutters have been sexually abused/raped. This would make this action something that is not a mortal sin but should be addressed in therapy.

There is a form of therapy DBT that is a behavior-based therapy that has shown outstanding success in curbing the desire to self-mutilate (or let out the pain) and is accessible at many community mental health agencies. This is the best therapy I have seen for overcoming this behavior.

Talking to a priest about feeling the love of God and ways you can begin to see yourself as loved by God would be a helpful adjunct to therapy but I am going to be firm that this is NOT overcome without some mental health support. I am a mental health case manager and I monitor 3 “cutters” and they are all in DBT therapy. Priests would most likely be out of their expertise on this but certainly could encourage meditations that could curb some of the anxiety when the desires to cut start going through one’s mind.

Using the rosary and other prayers can help reduce the desire, but please get help. There’s LOTS of help out there and I will pray for you.


People who cut (aka: “cutters”) has almost always been significantly sexually abused and are not in “control” when they engage in this behavior. No, it’s not at all a free will decision.

I’m a self mutilator, although I have never been sexually abused. I know God doesn’t want me to do it, but sometimes it feels like all I have. I don’t know about it being a mortal sin, though.

I agree. I used to teach street kids, and about 25% of them “cut.” No free will was involved at all!

Tell your parents, and get help. Medication may help you but you need to be under the care of physician to be sure you don’t have negative side effects.

Please tell your priest your struggles, but also tell your parents. You can get help from various social service agencies and/or Catholic Charities.

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