Usually humans understand aggression as those behaviors referred to other people, As a defensive function against threats from others, but not like those directed against ourselves, because we must assume that the instinct for survival prevails.
For that, that self-injurious behavior occurs mainly in adolescenceEven as one truly begins to live, this is an issue of growing interest, especially at a time when suicide is one of the leading killers of adolescents.
Self-Injury in Adolescents: What is the Prevalence and Incidence?
The proportion of adolescents with self-injurious behaviors is considered to be between 6 and 16%, with no significant difference in samples of communities from different countries.
The incidence is highest in adolescents diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, particularly depression, behavioral disorders, and anxiety or anxiety disorders. Data also shows that self-injury they are more common in children who have gone through an adoption process, as well as in those who live in large families or single parents. Girls hurt themselves more with cuts, while boys do it with burns.
What are the most important risk factors?
Between socio-demographic variables, The following stand out.
- Age: Cross-sectional studies with community samples indicate that an inverted “U” phenomenon occurs, with a peak observed between 12 and 16 years, preceded by a gradual increase from 11 to 13 years only in women. remains relatively stable
- Gender: Self-injurious behaviors are more common in women than in men.
On another side, characteristic variables to highlight are these.
- Impulsivity: Studies on this topic suggest that among adolescents who self-injure, people with a high level of impulsivity are overrepresented compared to the general population.
- Negative self-image: They make internal, global and relatively consistent and stable attributions to negative events in their life. Compared to that, these teens have lower self-esteem and a more pessimistic cognitive style than people who don’t self-harm, especially girls. Therefore, low self-esteem is considered a predisposing factor for and sustaining self-injurious behavior.
- Problem-solving ability: If it is deficient, the risk of these behaviors increases.
- Anger and hostility: these are the most common psychological predispositions among young people who get hurt.
On another side, there are also psychopathological variables.
- Substance abuse: The consumption of alcoholic beverages is statistically closely linked to self-injurious behavior.
- Depressive disorders: 67% of adolescents who take a toxic intake to attempt suicide have a depressive disorder.
- Eating disorders: these young people have a more negative body image than the teenage girls who do not usually injure themselves, bulimic behaviors being the most common because they also have a greater impulsivity.
- Behavioral disorders: in particular antisocial disorder.
Psychosocial factors also matter
Variables linked to relationships with others, and especially to what these young people see in their daily lifeThey are fundamental. Among them, it is necessary to take into account those which are described here.
- Interpersonal conflicts in the family or school context.
- Bullying at school is a predisposing factor to self-harm.
- Modeling or imitation. There is a remarkable consensus that teens who self-injure often have family and friends who do too. In addition, many of these adolescents interact through discussions and forums with other abusers, thanks to new technologies.
- Possible presence of sexual abuse: the prevalence is higher in this population than in the general so that it would act as a precipitating factor and is modulated by the presence of a depressive disorder.
In terms of family characteristics, The following findings were made:
- One in two self-destructive adolescents lives in single-parent households.
- Coexistence problems are statistically associated with suicide attempts among adolescents.
- Lack of warmth in relationships with other family members and dysfunctional relationships between adolescents (under 16) and their mothers have been shown to be strong predictors of suicide attempts.
How can the family deal with self-harm?
First of all, it is important to be aware that self-injury is a major problem and, therefore, professional help is always required.
If he hasn’t told you, it’s because it’s behavior that takes place in the greatest secrecy, usually in your bedroom, in the dark or at night, but then feels guilt, shame or fear for what you think, for failing. or to disappoint. Many times they have fear of being discovered and ending up in a psychiatric unit or hospitalized. For all of this, you need to be understanding and let your child talk to you about this behavior.
Many times parents mistakenly believe that this is a red flag, but the fact that it remains hidden should make you suspect otherwise. Therefore, you need to be aware of the seriousness, but still the support and the understanding. Never think that talking about your daughter’s reasons for self-harm will make the situation worse, but on the contrary, it will be. a way for her (or he) to release the emotions she has repressed and that they caused him this emotional pain that leads them to self-harm.
We know you will go through times of fear or uncertainty, but self-injuring teens are not aggressive or a danger to others. You have to tell him that you want to help him, that you will support him, but that you will do it with your psychologist and, if necessary, with your psychiatrist.
In our practice, we are specialists in clinical psychology and psychotherapy of children and adolescents and we have a long experience of self-harm in adolescents. We are here to help you, as a family, and your child.
- Javierre, E, Amiguet, M., Mengual, JM, Fuertes, A., Ruiz, PM, García, N. (2016) The last among adolescents. Cuts on the skin. Bol.Pediatr. Rios Sor, 46:35
- Fredes, A., Vázquez, M., De Reial, A., Sánchez, C. Giné, I. (2012) Self-injurious behavior in adolescents: prevalence, risk factors and treatment. Notebooks of psychosomatic medicine and link psychiatry, nº 103.
- Ibañez-Aguirre, C. (2017) Psychopathological Keys to Self-Aggressive Behaviors in Adolescence. Journal of Clinical Psychology with Children and Adolescents, vol.4, nº1, pp. 65-70.