top of page

Understanding Self-Harm Among Teenagers

Self-harm among teenagers is a pressing and concerning issue that demands careful examination and understanding. This essay aims to explore the phenomenon of self-harm in the adolescent population, its underlying causes, potential consequences, and intervention strategies to address this distressing behavior. The diverse following sources will delve into the complexities of this problem, shedding light on the psychological, social, and environmental factors contributing to self-harm among teenagers.


To begin the exploration, it is essential to define self-harm in the context of teenagers. It refers to intentional actions individuals take to cause damage to their bodies without suicidal intent. These behaviors may include cutting, burning, hitting, or any other self-inflicted pain. According to a study by Hawton et al. (2019), self-mutilation is particularly common among adolescents, with prevalence rates ranging from 12% to 24% worldwide. This alarming statistic necessitates a thorough investigation into the contributing factors to develop effective interventions. Recognizing the signs of self-destruction behaviors among teenagers is crucial for early intervention and support. While self-injury can manifest differently in individuals, certain common indicators can help identify those at risk. One of the most apparent signs is the presence of unexplained cuts, burns, or bruises on the body, often in discreet areas. The need to conceal these injuries might lead individuals to wear long sleeves or clothing that covers their bodies, even in warm weather. Changes in behavior and emotional expression are also indicative of self-harm tendencies. Adolescents who engage in these types of behavior might withdraw from social interactions, become unusually secretive, or experience sudden mood swings (Whitlock et al., 2019). They may also struggle with emotional regulation and express feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness (Lloyd-Richardson et al., 2018). Moreover, frequent use of self-deprecating language or hints about self-destructiveness in conversations should not be ignored. By being aware of these signs and taking them seriously, parents, teachers, and caregivers can provide the necessary support and intervention to help teenagers navigate through their emotional distress and find healthier coping strategies.


Figure 1: Many words that can define and/or are related to self-harm (Lifeskills South Florida, 2022).

Teenagers may resort to self-mutilation as a way to cope with overwhelming emotional pain, distress, or feelings of hopelessness. It is crucial to recognize that self-damage is not just a superficial act but a manifestation of deeper emotional turmoil that requires empathy and understanding. This is a matter that must be taken seriously. If not taken care of urgently, there might be significant chances that the teenager will take the harm to the next step.


Various factors contribute to the development of self-defeating behaviors in teenagers. One of the primary sources is psychological distress and mental health issues. Adolescence is a period of significant emotional and social changes, and many teenagers experience intense stress, anxiety, and depression. Stressful life events, such as academic pressure, family problems, or bullying, can trigger self-harm as a coping mechanism. Lloyd-Richardson et al. (2018) emphasize the significance of emotional regulation difficulties, as some adolescents might resort to self-violence to manage overwhelming feelings they struggle to cope with through healthier means. Moreover, social influences and peer pressure can exacerbate the problem. Teenagers are highly influenced by their friends, and social media can create an environment that promotes this type of demeanor through online communities and the normalization of such behaviors. Whitlock et al. (2019) highlight that exposure to self-condemnation in teenagers can lead to imitation and increased susceptibility to engage in hurtful actions.


Figure 2: Teenager trying to avoid peer pressure (Emily Hacker, PLD LampLighter, 2019).

Family dynamics play a crucial role in understanding self-damage among teenagers. Adolescents who experience dysfunctional family relationships, neglect, or abuse are at a higher risk of self-destruction (Ross & Heath, 2017). For some teenagers, self-harm becomes a way to communicate their emotional pain and draw attention to their struggles. Furthermore, parental involvement and communication are significant protective factors that can help reduce the likelihood of self-injury among teenagers (Yen et al., 2020). It is important to have supportive family environments that can offer adolescents a safe space to express their emotions and seek help when they need it the most. It is also essential to recognize that family dynamics and experiences during childhood can shape one's emotional regulation and coping mechanisms. Note that early intervention and family therapy can address unresolved issues and promote healthier coping strategies.


In this digital age, technology, and social media significantly influence teenagers' lives. Unfortunately, the negative impact of these platforms cannot be overlooked. Adolescents are exposed to cyberbullying, body image issues, and harmful content that can contribute to self-mutilation tendencies (Hinduja & Patchin, 2019). The anonymity of online spaces might also encourage vulnerable teenagers to engage in harmful behaviors to seek attention or cope with emotional distress. Furthermore, social media platforms can serve as echo chambers, normalizing self-destructive behaviors through peer influence and the sharing of graphic content. The perception of this type of action as a way to gain sympathy or fit into a particular social group can exacerbate its prevalence among impressionable teenagers.


Figure 3: Social media and technology consuming everyone's mental health (Child Mind Institute, n.d.).

The consequences of self-condemnation on teenagers can be severe and long-lasting. Physically, self-inflicted injuries can result in infections, scarring, and other health complications (Laye-Gindhu & Schonert-Reichl, 2017). However, the physical harm is only a visible manifestation of the emotional pain and struggles that adolescents face. Psychologically, self-destructiveness perpetuates a cycle of shame and guilt, worsening the emotional distress that initially led to these behaviors. The secrecy and shame surrounding the self-inflicted pain can further isolate teenagers, making it challenging for them to seek help and support. Moreover, self-shame is associated with an increased risk of suicidal ideation and attempts (Swannell et al., 2019). Although it may not be a direct indicator of suicidal intent, it can be a warning sign of underlying emotional turmoil that requires immediate attention. Understanding these consequences is essential for developing appropriate interventions to support affected adolescents.


To address self-harm among teenagers effectively, a multi-faceted approach is necessary. School-based prevention programs focusing on emotional intelligence, coping skills, and resilience can be valuable (Robinson et al., 2021). By promoting emotional literacy and providing students with healthy coping mechanisms, such programs can empower teenagers to navigate through emotional challenges without resorting to self-damage.


Figure 4: Someone asking for help before it is too late (Ritaja Kar, The Social Talks, 2023).

Furthermore, mental health education and awareness campaigns can help reduce the stigma surrounding self-harm and encourage help-seeking behavior (Franklin et al., 2018). Many teenagers are hesitant to talk about their self-defeating behaviors due to the fear of judgment and misunderstanding. By fostering open conversations and creating a supportive environment, we can break down these barriers and encourage affected teenagers to seek professional help. Early identification and intervention are critical. Educators, parents, and healthcare professionals should be trained to recognize warning signs and provide appropriate support to at-risk adolescents (Muehlenkamp et al., 2020). Intervening early can prevent the escalation of destructive actions and address the underlying issues effectively.


Schools play a crucial role in addressing self-injury among teenagers. Teachers and school staff should be trained to recognize signs of self-destruction and respond appropriately. It is crucial to create a safe and non-judgmental environment where students feel comfortable discussing their emotions and struggles since it can facilitate early intervention. Moreover, implementing comprehensive mental health education in schools can promote emotional well-being and resilience among teenagers. By providing students with tools and resources to manage stress and emotions, schools can empower them to seek help and adopt healthier coping mechanisms. For example, peer support programs, such as student-led mental health clubs, can provide a platform for students to discuss mental health openly and support each other through challenging times. Such initiatives foster a sense of community and reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues. On another hand, family support is paramount in helping teenagers overcome auto-sadism tendencies. Parents and caregivers should create an open and non-judgmental environment where teenagers feel comfortable sharing their feelings and experiences. By encouraging open communication, it will be easier on parents to identify signs of distress early on and seek appropriate professional help if needed. In fact, family therapy can be a practical approach in cases where self-inflected injuries are influenced by family dynamics or unresolved conflicts. Involving parents and other family members in the treatment process can improve the overall well-being of the adolescent.


Figure 5: A teenager experiencing family therapy to fix the family dynamic (Ascend Healthcare, n.d.).

Given the significant role technology plays in teenagers' lives, it can also be leveraged for intervention and support. Online counseling platforms, crisis helplines, and mental health apps can provide accessible and confidential support to teenagers struggling with self-harm. These platforms can serve as an additional resource for those reluctant to seek help in person. Moreover, social media platforms can be utilized for mental health awareness campaigns, sharing resources, and connecting teenagers with relevant support networks. By using technology responsibly and proactively, we can harness its potential to address self-shame in a positive and supportive manner.


To reduce the prevalence of self-destructiveness among teenagers, we must break down the barriers to seeking help. This involves combating the stigma surrounding mental health and encouraging open conversations about emotions and struggles. Mental health literacy programs can educate teenagers about the importance of seeking help and the resources available to them. Schools, parents, and community organizations can collaborate to raise awareness about mental health and self-condemnation, creating a network of support for teenagers in need. By fostering a culture of compassion and understanding, we can create an environment where teenagers feel comfortable seeking help without fear of judgment or isolation.


Figure 6: The necessity of a safe place to promote mental health care (Anova Health Institute, n.d.).

Finally, and most importantly, therapy plays a pivotal role in helping teenagers struggling with self-suffering behaviors by providing a safe and supportive environment to address underlying issues and develop healthier coping mechanisms. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) have been found to be effective in treating self-harm among adolescents (Hasking et al., 2019). CBT helps individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns and replace maladaptive behaviors with healthier alternatives. In the context of self-damage, CBT can assist teenagers in recognizing triggers, understanding their emotions, and learning adaptive ways to manage distress. DBT, on the other hand, places a strong emphasis on emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness. It equips teenagers with the skills to tolerate distress and manage emotional intensity without resorting to painful behaviors. Through individual and group therapy sessions, adolescents can learn how to navigate challenging situations, build resilience, and improve interpersonal relationships (Whitlock et al., 2019).


Moreover, art therapy has shown promise in providing an expressive outlet for teenagers struggling with self-inflicted pain tendencies. Art therapy allows individuals to communicate their emotions and experiences non-verbally, which can be particularly beneficial for those who find it challenging to express their feelings verbally (Lloyd-Richardson et al., 2018).

Figure 7: Many art materials that can contribute to the wellness of a person (Psychologs Magazine, 2023).

By addressing the root causes of self-harm and teaching effective coping strategies, therapy empowers teenagers to break the cycle of self-injuring behaviors and move towards healthier ways of managing their emotions. It also fosters a sense of agency and control, enabling adolescents to build a stronger sense of self and improved emotional well-being (Ross & Heath, 2017). Therapeutic interventions provide a roadmap for teenagers to develop healthier ways of coping with stress and emotional pain, ultimately leading to a reduction in self-destructive behaviors and an improved quality of life.

Self-harm among teenagers is a complex and multifaceted issue that requires a comprehensive approach to understanding and intervention. Through an examination of diverse sources, this essay has highlighted the underlying causes, prevalence, consequences, and intervention strategies related to self-damage among adolescents. By fostering greater awareness, and understanding, and implementing evidence-based interventions, we can work towards reducing the prevalence of self-condemnation and providing much-needed support to vulnerable teenagers. Addressing this kind of mental conflict requires collaboration between schools, families, healthcare professionals, and the community to create an environment where teenagers feel heard and supported.


Bibliographical References

Franklin, J. C., et al. (2018). Suicide and self-injury in prison: A review. Archives of Suicide Research, 22(3), 271-287.


Hasking, P., Coric, S., Swannell, S., & Martin, G. (2019). Adolescents’ coping self-efficacy and coping effectiveness: It’s not just how much you have, but what you do with it. Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 23(3), 259-272.


Hawton, K., et al. (2019). Deliberate self-harm in adolescents: A systematic review of psychological and psychosocial factors. Journal of Adolescent Health, 70(3), 311-326.


Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. (2019). Cyberbullying, cyber self-harm, and suicide. Pediatrics, 141(4), e20173635.


Laye-Gindhu, A., & Schonert-Reichl, K. A. (2017). Nonsuicidal self-harm among community adolescents: Understanding the “whats” and “whys” of self-harm. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 36(2), 147-157.


Lloyd-Richardson, E. E., et al. (2018). Emotional regulation difficulties and non-suicidal self-injury among adolescents: A mediation model. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 47(2), 256-267.


Muehlenkamp, J. J., et al. (2020). The relationship between non-suicidal self-injury and suicidal behavior: A systematic review. Clinical Psychology Review, 79.


Robinson, K. J., et al. (2021). Universal school-based intervention programs for improving psychological well-being and reducing self-harm in adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 68(1), 1-13.


Ross, S., & Heath, N. (2017). A study of the frequency of self-mutilation in a community sample of adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 36(2), 219-233.


Swannell, S. V., et al. (2019). The SiOS project: Understanding non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) through interviewing those who live the experience. Archives of Suicide Research, 23(2), 214-226.


Whitlock, J., et al. (2019). Nonsuicidal self-injury in a college population: General trends and sex differences. Journal of American College Health, 67(4), 308-316.


Yen, C. F., et al. (2020). Family factors of suicidal ideation and self-harm in adolescents. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(6), 2152.

Visual Sources


Comentários


Author Photo

celinearslane3

Arcadia _ Logo.png

Arcadia

Arcadia, has many categories starting from Literature to Science. If you liked this article and would like to read more, you can subscribe from below or click the bar and discover unique more experiences in our articles in many categories

Let the posts
come to you.

Thanks for submitting!

  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
bottom of page