Teen Self-Injury May Be Common
Teenage Cutting and Other Self-Harm Often Done to Control Emotions, Draw a Reaction
July 20, 2007 -- A new study shows that teen self-injury, such as cutting,
may be more common than previously thought.
If so, the findings are "a wake-up call to take better notice of these
behaviors in the community and learn how to help teens manage stress without
harming themselves," researcher Elizabeth Lloyd-Richardson, PhD, says in a
Lloyd-Richardson works at Brown University's medical school and The Miriam
Hospital in Providence, R.I.
She and her colleagues tracked self-injury among 633 students at five U.S.
high schools. Those students responded to the researchers' invitation to
complete an anonymous survey about coping with difficult social and emotional
The survey focused on various types of deliberate (but not suicidal)
self-injury, including cutting or burning skin, and biting or hitting
The students -- who were nearly 16 years old, on average -- checked the
types of self-harm they had tried within the past year and their motivation for
About 46% of the students reported some form of self-injury within the
That's far higher than the estimated 4% of the U.S. population with a
history of self-injury, according to past research cited by Lloyd-Richardson
Among the students in Lloyd-Richardson's study, the most common types of
self-injury were biting, cutting, hitting, and burning skin. Sixty percent of
self-injurers (28% of all students surveyed) noted moderate to severe
The teens' most common reasons for self-injury were "to try to get a
reaction from someone," "to get control of a situation," and
"to stop bad feelings."
Interventions to stop teen self-injury should promote other ways of coping
with their problems, handling stress, and communicating with others, note the
It's not clear if self-injurers were particularly likely to participate in
the study. So the findings -- published in the August edition of
Psychological Medicine -- may not represent all teens.
Lloyd-Richardson and colleagues call for nationally representative studies
to further investigate teen self-injury.
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