The Effects of Viewing Self Harm Images Online

By Caroline Harroe (Harmless CEO)

Recent research conducted by the University of Oxford has revealed that viewing images of self harm on the internet and social media can be detrimental to an individual’s mental health. The study, published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, surveyed 1,700 participants and found that those who had viewed such images were more likely to experience negative psychological effects such as depression and anxiety.

The researchers suggest that this is due to a phenomenon known as ‘vicarious learning’, whereby individuals learn behaviour through watching others performing it. In other words, seeing someone engage in self harm may lead viewers to believe that it is normal behaviour or even desirable – leading them down a potentially dangerous path.

The results also highlighted potential gender differences, with women being more likely to experience negative psychological effects as a result of viewing self harm images. This is concerning given that online violence and abuse disproportionately affect women, with social media providing an easy platform for perpetrators to target their victims.

In addition, the researchers found that some participants experienced distress after seeing positive comments on self harming images posted by others, which may be due to the fact that these comments may appear to encourage or normalise such behaviour.

Ultimately, the research highlights a need for further investigation into the impact of viewing self harm images on the internet and social media. It also suggests that more needs to be done in terms of educating individuals about the potential consequences of posting and consuming such content. Moreover, it is important for those who are struggling with self harm to receive appropriate support and guidance.

By understanding the risks associated with consuming such images, we can better protect those who may be vulnerable to their effects – helping to keep individuals safe both online and offline.

For more information or if you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please consult your doctor or contact a mental health professional.

Additional Resources:

UK National Health Service – Mental Health Support

World Health Organisation – Dealing with Stress & Trauma

United States Department of Health and Human Services – Mental Health Resources for Adults & Teens

The Samaritans – Support for Anyone in Need

The Mental Health Foundation – Improving the Lives of People with Mental Health Problems

Mind – Support & Advice for People with Mental Health Problems

It is clear that viewing images of self harm on the internet and social media can have significant consequences, both in terms of mental health and safety. It is therefore essential that we take action to tackle this issue – by providing education about potential risks, offering support to those affected, and working together to create a safer online environment for everyone. Only then will we be able to effectively protect those who are vulnerable to these dangers and ultimately reduce the prevalence of such damaging behaviour.

You can download the article here.