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Self-Harming: Not Just a Teenage Girl Thing

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March 1, 2017
Self-Harm Awareness Month

Self-Harming: Not Just a Teenage Girl Thing

“…when I look at my arms, I don’t think revolutionary. I think sad, and pain, but not revolutionary.”     – Kathleen Glasgow, Girl in Pieces

Distraction. Release. Punishment. Attention. Temporary high. These are just a few commonly cited reasons for causing self-harm, which commonly includes cutting but can also include biting, burning, hitting, scratching, and hair or eyelash/brow pulling, to name a few. While it can be difficult tracking self-harming statistics, as the act is often hidden from others, some experts believe that around 13% of young people may try hurting themselves on purpose at some point between 11-16 years, and there has been a sharp rise among 10-14 year olds in recent years (

While self-harming is often thought to be a “young girls’ issue”, boys and adults—male and female—are also affect- <click here to continue reading>

ed. While adult self-harming may be a sign of a psychiatric disorder such as depression, bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder, it isn’t always the case. Sometimes, it’s simply an outward expression of unmanaged emotions.

Self-harming is not usually associated with suicidal behavior, although if severe enough, injuries can have lasting effect and/or become life threatening. Motivations for self-harming vary, and trying to understand why a loved one is intentionally causing themselves pain can be difficult.

According to Insights therapist Ashleigh Lester, specializing in a variety of social, behavioral, and circumstantial issues among teens and tweens: “Many of my clients struggling with self-injurious behaviors report feeling disconnected from, invisible to or invalidated by caregivers. Others discuss feeling either emotionally empty or emotionally overwhelmed. When discussing the process of self-injury, many individuals describe experiencing a numbing, calming, or pleasurable sensation. This makes sense when we begin to understand that endorphins are quickly secreted into the bloodstream when one self-injures, thereby creating a ‘high,’ which can provideindividuals with relief from emotional distress; allow a mechanism to feel something over which they are in control; and serveas a medium for expressing internal feelings in an external manner. Ihave found over and over again that individuals who self-injure struggle with emotional understanding, expression and regulation, which become central components of our work together.”

If you or a loved one is self-harming, seek help from a professional. Learning how to manage emotions through talk therapy, relaxation techniques, or meditation/prayer can make a tremendous difference not only in the way you feel today, but also in the way you view and treat yourself tomorrow.


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