More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Self-Destructive Behavior Seen In More Adolescents
October 22, 2003

(The Cox News Service) -- Self-abuse, self-mutilation and self-injury are sometimes referred to as the "new age anorexia."

These self-destructive and often mutilating behaviors occur frequently in adolescents. It was reported in one study that the incidence of self-mutilation occurred at an estimated 1,800 out of 100,000 adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 35.

A common example of self-mutilating behavior is cutting the skin with a knife or razor until pain is felt and/or blood has been drawn. Other examples are burning the skin with metal or a lighted cigarette or picking the skin. These problematic behaviors are to be distinguished from tattooing or body piercing behaviors that are not typical of self-mutilation.

Those individuals seeking body adornment differ, psychologically speaking, from individuals practicing self-abuse as an attempt to escape from intense emotion or to achieve some level of focus.

Many individuals practicing self-abusive behavior report doing so in an attempt to relieve stress, pain and escape from fear or anxiety. Self-abusers who cut themselves are sometimes referred to as "cutters." Cutting sometimes has a "contagious" component, with group cutting occurring in settings such as prisons or even in school settings.

Cutting seems to appear more often in females than in males. Cutting also often co-exists with other problems such as eating disorders. Self-injurers are not usually planning suicide. However, tragedies, including serious medical complications or death, can and do occur.

Many reasons have been proposed to explain why people practice self-abusive behaviors.

Biological, psychological and social explanations have all been proposed as reasons to explain self-mutilation.

Like many problematic behaviors where the perceived need for control exists, self-mutilation and self-injurious behavior serves to express, validate or regulate emotional problems such as depression, tension, pain or anger.

Many treatment strategies are available and successful in treating self-injurious behavior.

Medication can be helpful in treating symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, which often accompany self-injurious behavior.

Individual and group psychotherapy are often useful in helping individuals explore alternatives to self-mutilation.

Family therapy and support groups can be of assistance for both the self-injurer and their families.

Copyright 2003 The Cox News Service.
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