Self-Injury Among Teens is Increasing — But Why?

Posted: May 30, 2014 in Shorts
Self-Injury Increasing Among Teens

Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is the deliberate intent to harm one’s body without suicidal intent. It can include cutting, scratching or burning the skin, or hitting or punching one’s self. Self-harm most commonly occurs among adolescents and young adults between the ages of 12 and 24. It has been increasing since the 1980’s.

One study by the University of Mississippi Medical Center showed a disturbing trend that places African American boys in grades 6-12 at high risk for self-injury behavior.

Why do people inflict injury on themselves?

NSSI is considered a borderline personality disorder. Those who practice NSSI often do it to cope with feelings of anxiety, depression, stress, emptiness, or feelings of low self-esteem and failure. Many who practice NSSI are victims of trauma and abuse. Inflicting pain and injury on themselves is their way of escaping or coping.

How to recognize NSSI

Those who practice self injury generally fall into one of two categories. They are either expressing anger or drawing attention to a need for help. Some may withdraw and try to hide their scars. Others may show visible signs of NSSI that includes scars on the arms and legs from cutting or burning, pulling out hair, self-poisoning, banging the head or punching the face. These are all potential signs of self-abuse.

Why the increase?

According to Psychology Today, NSSI can be triggered by peer pressure among adolescents to engage in risky behavior. Becoming friends with one who engages in NSSI can very easily influence that kind of behavior and become contagious among groups. It is similar to the reasons why adolescents are influenced by peers to drink or smoke. But most teens influenced to follow self-abuse are those who are considered distressed.

Although NSSI is not considered a suicidal intent, this risky behavior does place these adolescents at higher risk for suicide than those who do not practice NSSI.

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