Self-injurious behavior is no longer seen as novel or unusual behavior. When I asked a college student what she thought about such behavior, she replied that she thought it was stupid, but it certainly was common. People are inundated with this behavior. Real World San Diego had a “cutter” on its show. Several popular television shows have characters who cope with stress by cutting themselves. Christina Ricci has expressed her fling with self-mutilation in Rolling Stones magazine. Internet message boards are out there for those who want to learn more about how to cut or receive support not to cut.
Dr. Janis Whitlock at Cornell University recently published an article in Pediatrics indicating that she found that 20% of women and 14% of males on 2 major college campuses engage in self-injurious behavior at least once in their lifetime.
With all the hype on television, internet and video, one would think that younger teenagers would be drawn to such behavior. However, Dr. Nancy Heard found that about 14% of adolescents try self-injurious behavior. I have found many teens try self-injurious behavior just to see what it feels like. This usually is the only time they do it. It hurts and doesn’t achieve any desired effect, such as tension release. Some, however, find that this is the way they want to express their anger, fears and loneliness. It becomes the way to avoid communication and a way to cope with overwhelming emotions. Regardless of who cuts/burns more, the number of self-injurious adolescents and young adults is not likely to abate.
Article written by Evelyn Wenzel LCSW, CAP
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