Self-harm is a very real, very serious risk for adolescents all across the country. Every year, 1 in 5 females and 1 in 7 males engage in self-harm behavior, many of whom are teenagers. In fact, researchers have found that 90 percent of people who self-harm begin during their teen years – or even younger.
What Is Self-Injury Disorder?
Self-harm – also known as self-injury – is an unhealthy coping mechanism that involves hurting oneself on purpose.
Although many people believe self-harm only involves cutting, self-harm comes in many forms.
Examples of self-harm include (but are not limited to):
- Picking at wounds
- Pulling out hair
- Tugging at skin
Self-harm itself is not a mental illness, but may be indicative of poor coping mechanisms or a serious mental problem. Mental illnesses associated with self-harm include borderline personality disorder, depression, eating disorders, anxiety and PTSD.
What Causes Self Injury?
People participate in self-injury for a variety of reasons. Some people do it in an attempt to “punish” themselves for perceived wrongdoing, whereas others may do it to relieve negative emotions such as anger, frustration or pain. Self-injury releases the body’s natural painkillers, or endorphins, which can elevate mood and cause individuals to become addicted to injuring themselves.
People who are at the greatest risk of engaging in self-injury are those with a history of trauma, neglect or abuse. Other people may self-harm because they’re dealing with untreated or undertreated mental illness. People who use drugs are also at a greater risk of engaging in self-injury in part because drugs inhibit self-control.
A common misconception is that adolescents self-harm just to receive attention. This is not true. In fact, the majority of individuals who engage in self-harm behavior hide it from other people out of shame. Those who do self-harm for “attention” are often trying to get the adults in their lives to recognize that they are in mental turmoil and require treatment.