|“||A girl of nine years was brought to my office addicted to self-abuse. Upon examination, I found this child highly neurotic, the major part of her life had been under unhygienic atmosphere, case history, father psychopathic, had been in an insane asylum, mother ænemic. The child was sent to a state institution for girls and improved remarkably.||”|
|— Auguste Forel: The Sexual Question (1906)|
Self-abuse is another term for self-harm, i.e. any action that causes damage or harm to oneself. It is also an antiquated expression for masturbation because it was once wrongly thought that masturbation leads to mental or physical disorders. For example, the American medical doctor John Harvey Kellogg who thought that masturbation was the worst evil one could commit, often referred to it as "self-abuse".
Today, self-abuse will mostly refer to self-inflicted wounds and other non-deadly forms of self-destructive behavior.