Self-embedding is a type of self-mutilation during which a person inserts foreign objects under the skin; he or she may leave them there for a predetermined period of time or permanently.

What is Self-Embedding?
People who self-embed stick objects such as needles or staples under their skin, and may leave them there. Sometimes the objects are left under the skin because the person who inserted them cannot get them back out, but other times they are deliberately left under the skin. Self-embedding is uncommon, but is more likely to occur among young women.

Widespread recognition of self-embedding has only occurred over the past few years, and some news outlets have presented it as a new fad among teenagers. However, self-embedding has been around for several decades, and was first discovered in the early 20th century.

What Causes Self-Embedding?
Self-embedding is an extreme form of self-harm, and people who cut or burn themselves sometimes progress to self-embedding. The causes of self-embedding are similar to causes of other forms of self-mutilation. People who self-embedĀ  report that physical pain is easier to cope with than psychological pain, and the pain of embedding an object in the skin may serve as an outlet for emotional suffering. Exposure to media about self-embedding or friends who self-embed may increase the likelihood that a person who self-mutilates begins self-embedding.

Self-embedding is extremely dangerous. People may inadvertently puncture major blood vessels, develop serious infections, or create permanent scars. Removal of embedded objects can require surgery and an extended course of antibiotics. Major health threats such as HIV can be transmitted through self-embedding.

How is Self-Embedding Treated?
Self-embedding typically requires medical treatment to remove the embedded objects and treat any infections, as well as psychological treatment to address the emotions that contributed to the behavior. Psychotherapy can be helpful, and some people who self-mutilate benefit from group therapy. Therapy often focuses on finding healthy outlets for negative emotions, and people with a history of self-embedding may need constant supervision to ensure they do not harm themselves as they seek treatment.


  1. Sharples, T. (2008, December 11). Teens’ latest self-injury fad: Self-embedding. Time. Retrieved from,8599,1865995,00.html
  2. Wagner, C. (n.d.). Self-embedding: The next cutting? Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. Retrieved from

Last Updated: 08-24-2015

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