Throughout the United States, millions of adolescents and teens engage in self-harm.
Self-harm is any activity where sufferers intentionally cause injury to their body as an emotional coping mechanism. While many activities can cause injury, self-harm has the sole purpose of causing it as a response to how the sufferer is feeling inside.
About 30% of teen girls in the United States say they’ve engaged in intentional self-harm. A total of about 25% of adolescent girls claimed that they self-harmed in the previous year, usually by cutting or burning. About 10% of adolescent boys said the same.
The dictionary definition of self-harm focuses on damage done to the body, but there’s more to it. Researchers have found self-harm can produce temporary feelings of relief, but also that it is never only about the physical sensations associated with the experience.
No matter who does it or when, there is always a psychological element.
Just consider these facts:
Self-Harm Often Happens When Life is “Out of Control”
Self-harm is more likely to take place when a person is experiencing overwhelming emotions.
Young people face many challenges that may make them feel they do not have control over their lives. In addition to death and illness that may strike loved ones, they contend with stress related to grades and beginning to define their adult identities.
Self-harm functions as a temporary, unhealthy coping mechanism for these types of situations. Without learning constructive ways to manage negative feelings, however, a young person who self-harms will continue to feel overwhelmed by future problems.
Self-Harm is Associated With a Negative Self-Image
The latest research has shed light on why some people are more likely to self-harm than others. In effect, those who consider themselves “bad,” “defective,” or in some way deserving of a “punishment” are far more likely to self-harm than others are.
As they begin to compare themselves to their peers, adolescents are at significant risk of creating a negative self-image. Issues with body image, academic or athletic performance, and parental approval can all contribute to a negative self-assessment that needs to be corrected.
Self-Harm Raises the Risk of Psychological Problems in the Future
Self-harm is not part of attempted suicide, but it can raise the risk that a young person will turn toward suicide later on. In fact, a wide range of self-destructive behaviors can stem from the underlying problems that self-harm represents.
Researchers have found that:
- Risk of suicide for teens with a history of self-harm can be 27 times higher than average.
- Self-harm and alcohol abuse often occur together; each raises the other’s associated risks.
- Many experience psychological craving for self-harm after engaging in it several times.
Self-harm is not yet considered an “addiction” in the traditional sense. However, studies are now underway that may prove that the brain changes associated with self-harm are comparable to drug addiction, creating a long-term pattern of self-destructive behavior.
A Safe, Non-Judgmental Environment is Essential for Young Self-Harm Sufferers
At any age, self-harm can cause physical, mental, and even social effects that can make it difficult for young people to grow into healthy adults.
With that in mind, it’s essential that kids and teens suffering from emotional disturbances get the care and treatment they need as soon as possible.
It is often difficult for young people to open up about experiences of self-harm. They may feel embarrassed about scars or consider themselves “weak” for self-harming.
Wilderness therapy provides a secure environment where they can explore feelings associated with their self-harm, build supportive relationships with peers, and learn healthy coping skills.
To learn more, contact WinGate Wilderness Therapy.