There's no one single or simple cause that leads someone to self-injure. In general, self-injury is usually the result of an inability to cope in healthy ways with psychological pain related to issues of personal identity and having difficulty "finding one's place" in family and society. The person has a hard time regulating, expressing or understanding emotions. The mix of emotions that triggers self-injury is complex. For instance, there may be feelings of worthlessness, loneliness, panic, anger, guilt, rejection, self-hatred or confused sexuality.
Through self-injury, the person may be trying to:
Dec. 06, 2012
- Manage or reduce severe distress or anxiety and provide a sense of relief
- Provide a distraction from painful emotions through physical pain
- Feel a sense of control over his or her body, feelings or life situations
- Feel something, anything, even if it's physical pain, when feeling emotionally empty
- Express internal feelings in an external way
- Communicate depression or distressful feelings to the outside world
- Be punished for perceived faults
- Shedler J. The efficacy of psychodynamic psychotherapy. American Psychologist. 2010;65:98.
- Self-harm in young adults. National Alliance on Mental Illness. http://www.nami.org/Content/ContentGroups/Helpline1/SelfInjury_Fact_Sheet_FINAL.pdf. Accessed Oct. 11, 2010.
- What is self-injury, self-harm, self-abuse? The Official Newsletter of NAMI Springfield. 2012;2:1.
- Cutting. TeensHealth from Nemours. http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_mind/mental_health/cutting.html. Accessed Oct. 11, 2012.
- Facts for families: Self-injury in adolescents. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. http://aacap.org/page.ww?name=Self-Injury+in+Adolescents§ion=Facts+for+Families. Accessed Oct. 11, 2012.
- Depression. National Institute of Mental Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml. Accessed Sept. 14, 2012.
- A family guide: What families need to know about adolescent depression. http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=Child_and_Adolescent_Action_Center&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=24806. Accessed Sept. 14, 2012.
- When you fear someone may take their life. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. http://www.afsp.org/index.cfm?page_id=f2f25092-7e90-9bd4-c4658f1d2b5d19a0. Accessed Sept. 14, 2012.
- Mental health and teens: Watch for danger signs. Healthychildren.org. http://www.healthychildren.org/English/Pages/default.aspx?nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3a+No+local+token. Accessed Oct. 11, 2012.
- Hofmann SG, et al. The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 2010;78:1.
- Self-injury. NAMI On Campus. http://www.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Find_Support/NAMI_on_Campus1/Mental_Illness_Fact_Sheets/Self-injury.pdf. Accessed Oct. 12, 2012.
- Barrocas AL, et al. Rates of nonsuicidal self-injury in youth: Age, sex, and behavioral methods in a community sample. Pediatrics. 2012;130:39.
- Lewis SP, et al. The scope of nonsuicidal self-injury on YouTube. Pediatrics. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org. Accessed Oct. 11, 2012.
- Palmer BA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. (Nov. 1, 2012).
- Alarcon RD (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. (Nov. 4, 2012).
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