Why do Teens Hurt Themselves?
It seems that over the past decades more and more teens are hurting themselves, whether by using razors for cutting themselves, or lighters to burn themselves. Their main intention is to feel pain, and the behavior is called non-suicidal self-injury.
It is very different than the suicidal attempts made by many people, as the intention of the youngsters is not to kill themselves, but only to feel the pain. Why? A recent study was made on the mental health of the college students, and it was presented by the American Psychological Association Meeting in August. They found lots of evidence which could be used as clue for this behavior. They found out that at one particular university, the rates of the students who were involved in non-suicidal self-injury doubled in ten years.
The scientists do not know if the cases have increased in that period, or if they have remained the same, the increase being detected only due to increased awareness. More scientists believe that even if there was an increase between the 1990s and the 2000s, it is very unlikely that the numbers would keep on increasing. However, the non-suicidal self-injury represents a serious health concern for the entire nation. Various studies have been done on the domain, and most of them have revealed the fact that 17-28 percent of teens and young adults have been engaged in this behavior. This has raised the concern of the scientists, who want to investigate the problem.
First of all, they would like to find out why these people engage in this behavior. They would also like to know if there are some people who have higher chances of engaging in this behavior than others, and if there are means of stopping the tendency of self injury. It seems that the tendency of self-injury is more related to numerous psychological issues than with physical ones. The majorities of the young people who do it have feelings of depression, social isolation, anxiety, and are in a higher risk of committing suicide. Peggy Andover, a psychology professor at Fordham University in New York says that these are very big problems, and that they need to be stopped.
Andover also stated that the problem can be found in elementary school, high school, and college, meaning that the people of different age are affected by it. It is very likely that the disorder will be included in the next Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders which will arrive in 2013. That is considered to be the most important book of its kind, being considered the “Psychiatric Bible”.
Kimberly Harrison, postdoctoral practitioner at Park Center Inc., which is a mental health treatment center in Fort Wayne, Ind., stated that the non-suicidal self-injury can be described as a “deliberate destruction of body tissues without the suicidal intent”. This means that the one who is engaged in this behavior wants to destroy his/her body without taking his/her own life. There are numerous behaviors which can fit this description, such as burning, carving of the skin, cutting, breaking bones, sticking yourself with needles or pins, and preventing wounds from healing.
In most of the cases, the process begins between the ages of 11 and 15. It is unknown how prevalent the behavior is in the case of the teenagers and of the young adults, because it often fluctuates. They can go from 4 percent up to 38 percent. These estimates have been made on a few hundreds of people, but the experts believe that if they would have been done on thousands of people, then the percentage would have been around 20 percent.
The biggest risk associated with this behavior comes from the actual wounds, because they can become infected. However, the psychological risks are also present, as people often feel ashamed about the behavior, and because of this they tried to avoid human contact. They might also be rejected from a social point of view, if they admit that they are hurting themselves. It has also been discovered that the people who are engaged in a non-suicidal self-injury are in higher risk of committing suicide. The risk is present in many psychiatric patients. It is believed that the people who engage in non-suicidal self-injury have very high chances of committing suicide than the other ones, because they are not afraid to harm themselves.
Janis Whitlock, a researcher at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. stated that the people who are engaged in non-suicidal self-injury do not try to kill themselves, but they are trying to cope with the life they have. He stated that the process is actually the opposite of suicide. Most experts believe that the people who hurt themselves are doing it to cope with the negative emotions. They say that the activity is similar to drinking, taking drugs, binge eating, and so on. Most of the people who hurt themselves said that the activity calms them, and that they are doing it to get rid of the negative emotions.
However, there are many people who injure themselves as a form of punishment. According to Matthew Nock, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, there are four reasons why the people engage in this behavior. Some do it in order to feel something, even if that thing is pain. Some do it to show themselves that they are in distress, and instead of resorting to words, they do it in this manner. There are also people who do it to get other stop bothering them, and there are some who do it to stop the bad feelings that they are experiencing. It has also been discovered that the people with a negative body image are more prone to hurting themselves than the other people.
Jennifer Muehlenkamp, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire believes that the people who have a negative body image find it way easier to hurt themselves, because they do not respect their bodies. It has been believed that the girls hurt themselves more than the boys, but in the more recent period it has been discovered that the difference between the two genders is not too high.11