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Stopping Self-Mutilation - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Stopping Self-Mutilation:

What To Do About Teens Who Cut And Burn

Cutting, burning, and pinching are all ways that teenagers try to hurt themselves. A recent study found that 20% of teens have engaged in self-injury at some point in their adolescence.

But what’s the big deal?

Underlying Diagnosis: Beyond the obvious risks of serious physical injury or infection, this behavior can have devastating consequences psychologically. Self-injury is usually caused by some kind of deeper issue such as undiagnosed depression, anxiety, and extreme social isolation. In addition, teens who self-mutilate are at a much higher risk to commit suicide.

Lack of Coping: Most self-injurers report that they use it as a means to cope with negative emotions and to calm themselves down. In effect, their self-mutilation tricks the brain into releasing endorphins which numb pain and cause a sense of euphoria.

Teens hurt themselves for reasons that fit into four distinct categories:

1.) Release of tension and to stop negative feelings about themselves or others

2.) To feel, experience, and maybe even enjoy pain

3.) The classic “cry for help”

4.) To become an outsider

Here’s are some specifics ways that teens hurt themselves:

  • Cutting
  • Burning
  • Carving into their skin
  • Intentional breaking of bones
  • Sticking with pins and needles

Parents, your daughters are more likely to cut, carve, and insert pins and needles while your sons are more likely to burn and intentionally break bones.

Now, is this a passing fad or something that parents should really be worried about?

Cyclical Nature: After committing harms to themselves, self-injurers often feel shame about what they have done and fear social rejection for their scars and behavior. This in turn only reinforces whatever anxiety or depression they were feeling beforehand and can start the cycle all over again.

Consequences For Life: Around eighty percent of self-mutilators report stopping the behavior within a few years of starting it due to "growing out of it" or they sought help. However, those who report self-injury tend to report higher levels of sadness and difficulty for the rest of their lives.

If you or someone you know is engaging in self-injury, please seek professional help immediately. This is an extremely difficult thing to deal with without the help of a professional therapist.

Sources:

"The Kids Aren't All Right" by Rachael Rettner on MSNBC.com, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39100605/ns/health-kids_and_parenting/


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