Recent studies reveal that 1 in 10 young people will self harm during adolescence, though it is more common in girls than boys. However these statistics may only reveal the tip of the iceberg as they are based on cases reported to GP’s and hospitals and most self harm is done in secrecy amidst feelings of shame.
This contradicts the view that many people have that self harm is an ‘attention seeking’ behaviour. Parents worry that continued self harming will lead to suicide attempts but this is often not the case.
Deliberate Self Harm (DSH) includes overdose, cutting, burning, picking scabs or wounds, excessive piercing, banging the head or body against hard objects, punching or hitting yourself, using drugs, having unsafe sex, or engaging in reckless behaviour. Occasionally groups of young people will self harm together in what might be viewed as a tribal activity.
Self harming can become addictive and be a regular way of managing inner turmoil and powerful negative feelings.
Intolerable distress can lead to feeling bad about yourself, hopeless, isolated and powerless. You may feel that no one listens to you and self harm is a way of establishing a sense of control or releasing a build up of tension.
Being able to talk openly about DSH is the first step to recovery.