- 90% of self-injury individuals begin harming themselves during their teen years or younger.
- Almost 50% of self-abusers begin at the age of 14 and continue into their 20’s.
- 40% of all individuals who commit self-injury type behaviors are males.
- Almost 50% of cutters or self-injury individuals have reported being sexually abused.
Self-harm is a way of coping with a specific problem and the person often stops once the problem is sorted out. Other individuals self-harm regularly or whenever they feel over-loaded with thoughts and feelings. This type of destructive behavior can be seen as a way of expressing emotional pain that is too difficult to describe. When people intentionally harm themselves they can feel a sense of release, which they feel helps them to cope with things, even if the feeling is temporary.
Emotions that could be felt are anger, depression, emptiness, self-loathing, loneliness, guilt, and many more. When these feelings become overwhelming, hurting yourself might seem to provide you with an outlet to ease the pain. Young women are most likely to self-harm, although figures suggest that the number of young men who self-harm is growing.
Other issues that may make you more likely to self-harm include:
Young people are often under a lot of pressure from their families, people their age, and from school. Many young people also report having friends who self-harm.
- General life events (i.e. death of a friend or relative, sexual abuse, school pressures or bullying)
- Using drugs or alcohol
Things considered as self-harm include:
- Cutting on the arms, torso, or legs
- Scratching or burning the skin
- Hitting the body against objects
- Punching oneself
- Pulling out hair
- Swallowing or inhaling harmful objects/substances
- Overdose of medication, either prescribed or over-the-counter
- Self-neglect (such as lack of eating, bathing etc.)
- And, more broadly, inflicting intentional pain upon oneself
What is the root cause of self-harm?
It is difficult to say what causes each individual person to hurt themselves intentionally. With some people, the cause or "trigger" is a situation that has happened in the past -- self-harm can also begin suddenly or sporadically. There are some young people that self-harm who have had very difficult or painful experiences. These could include being bullied and(or) being assaulted, being ignored, separated or losing a loved one, being neglected by the family or suffering physical or sexual abuse. Sometimes, the difficulty of everyday life for some people is too much and self-harm is a way to cope.
Feeling immense amounts of pressure to do well at school or trying to meet the expectations of others can make someone feel many emotions that can trigger self-harm or destructive behavior. One may feel angry that their body doesn’t look like they would want it to and self-harm can begin. This type of behavior can also be linked with eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. These conditions can be seen as forms of self-harm.
Occasionally young people self-harm because friends or other people in their peer group do it. More often than not though, self-harm is a way of attempting to deal with buried feelings or difficult feelings that have been blocked out. Those who self-harm do not wish to take their own lives. However, as a parent, you should still seek treatment for a child that is exhibiting destructive behavior.
What happens when people self-harm?
As there are many reasons why someone might self-harm, there are also many reactions that can result from self-harm including:
- Reduce or relieve feelings of terrible tension
- Temporarily take away bad feelings
- Distract from emotional pain
- Make one feel alive if they are feeling numb
- Help one feel less guilty
- Reaching out for help without having to directly speak about it
Are people who self-harm seeking attention?
Self-harming can be a cry for help especially when young people first begin inflicting pain upon themselves. But a lot of the time people who self-harm hide what they do rather than show people as they are scared about how other people will react. It can also be because it is a private action, part of maintaining control. Self- harm is something they feel that they have ownership of and that changes when other people become involved. Also, revealing self-harm can open a door to having to face the root of the pain.