Teen Self-Injury: An Epidemic on the Rise

Essay by alyssiaw920College, UndergraduateA+, April 2009

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My WebLike a spider, I have spun my web. All this pain,Inside my head.

The silver dagger,Stained with blood.But I wouldn't go back,And change it if I could.

The beautiful blood,Leaks out of my wrist.All the pain is released,As I tighten my fist.

My wonderful web,Is breaking apart.It's crumbling down,Just like my heart.

It's ruined now,The beautiful web.The wonderful thing,That kept me from death.

by AlyssiaThe above poem I wrote when I was struggling with self-injury, if only I had someone who was paying attention, the problem might have been solved a lot sooner.

Self-injury, self-abuse, self-harm, self-inflicted violence, self-mutilation, and cutting are just a few ways to label this self-destructive behavior in what Favazza (1993) defined as, "…the deliberate alteration or destruction of body tissue without conscious suicidal intent" (p. 5). These are people who deliberately hurt themselves in a way that causes tissue damage to the body.

Self-injurers use their wrists, arms, legs, abdomen, genitals, ankles, chest, hips, or any part of their body that can be hidden from others. Self injury takes on many forms: cutting, burning, hitting, biting, scratching / digging / picking the skin, breaking bones, re-infecting wounds, head banging, and in extreme cases inserting objects into body cavities, or even amputating extremities, digits, or genitals. These are apparently a few ways that a person may self-injure. However, psychologists agree that the most common type of self-injurious act is cutting.

Trends in behavior and individual expression are not new among adolescents. Being tough and rebellious has always been a hallmark of teenagers. Back in the 60's and 70's it was the hippie look with heavy drug use that was the norm among teenagers and young adults. In the 1980's came the valley girl or material girl look with increased sex...