Mary A. DuHoux, Ph.D., NCSP, East High Psychologist
What are Self-Injurious Behaviors?
Self-harm is first and foremost a coping
strategy to deal with overwhelming thoughts and feelings. It is
defined as a deliberate and repetitive act to harm one's body
without any intention to die as a result of the behavior.
* The areas that are most typically injured are the arms and wrists, legs, abdomen, head, chest, and genitals, respectively.
* The age at which people first begin to engage in self-cutting behaviors is usually in middle adolescence , with the freshman year of high school being the average age of the first self-injurious behaviors.
* It can take on several forms, most commonly cutting, scraping, burning, pinching, scratching, biting, self-hitting, and interference with wound healing.
* It is usually done secretly, in private and has a tendency to hide the scars. It may be planned and ritualistic or impulsive.
* Teenagers may feel little or no pain with the injury.
Why Do Teens Self-Injure?
Research investigations indicate that people who self-injure have identified the following as reasons for engaging in self-injurious behaviors:
(a) feeling concrete pain when pain from
a perceived rejection or loss is too overwhelming; providing a
sense of being real or alive-of feeling something; externalizing
internal pain and nurturing those wounds
(b) reducing numbness and promoting a sense of being real; "self soothing" for someone who does not have other means to calm intense emotions
(c) keeping traumatic memories from intruding into the consciousness
or used as "event markers"; re-enacting previous abuse
(d) affect modulation; getting relief from intense emotions
(e) communication; receiving attention, support and caring from others or asking for help in an indirect or symbolic way
(f) discharge of anger, anxiety, despair, and expression of disappointment (g) gaining a sense of control
(h) self-punishment for perceptions of being bad or self-loathing
(i) an enhancement of self-esteem.
* There can be feelings of gratification, relief and comfort, a sense of power and control, and even arousal or euphoria after the act of self-harm.
* It doesn't necessarily mean that they were an abused child or that they were suicidal at the time. It appears that a person who is suicidal seeks to end all feelings whereas a person who self-injures seeks to feel better. They are, however, experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.