In recent years, a common pattern among teens has been to inflict injury upon themselves. Recent studies have found that one third to one half of adolescents have engaged in some kind of non-suicidal self injury.
Self injury is harming one’s own body, without the intention of committing suicide. It can include cutting, biting, scratching, burning, and bruising the skin. Usually, treating self harm is multifaceted because there are multiple reasons why an individual might engage in self injury. For instance, self harm is often a way to cope with intense emotions, to calm and soothe, to feel more alive if they feel disconnected or numb, or to release pent up anger. For this reason, part of the teen self injury treatment itself is to tenderly support an adolescent in getting in touch with the reason behind their behavior.
But what exactly is at the root of self harm?
In a way, it’s a pattern of destruction, a habit of continuing to harm and commit self violence. To destroy something, according to the online Merriam-Webster online dictionary, means to put an end to the existence of something by damaging it or attacking it. For instance, fire destroyed the city on the hill. Yet, in self injury, what is a teen attempting to put an end to? What is he or she unconsciously trying to destroy?
Self destructive behavior is common in many illnesses including addiction, eating disorders, and bipolar disorder. It’s not uncommon for teens with an addiction, which could be defined as a cycle of destruction, to self harm. And it’s not uncommon among teens that have addiction to also have a psychological disorder. Besides, any self injury behavior is an indication of psychological illness and should prompt teen self injury treatment.
In a strange sort of way, self injury is a pull between life and death. Although the self harm might be a step towards death, the intent behind the self violence is an attempt to live. It’s a means to perhaps feel more alive or to cope with difficult emotions or to find a way to keep living in a destructive, dysfunctional environment at home.
And perhaps this pull between life and death is true for all people. The founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, identified two primal urges: the libidinal urge towards life and the aggressive drive towards death. These two forces are forever bearing their influence on an individual, and perhaps in its most acute form on those struggling with self harm.
Another reason for the self destruction of addiction is a belief in unworthiness. Somewhere a teen may feel shame or rejection. The choice to hurt oneself may be an attempt to destroy a part of you that feels worthy of rejection. Shame and self hatred are also directly related to the destructive choices of addiction.
If a teen is struggling to end a self harming pattern, perhaps he or she can find the end by looking at the reason behind wanting to stop. For instance, if there’s an inability to stop and it becomes an experience of choosing right over wrong, light over dark, and feels like a binding trap to behave in a certain way, than it might lack deeper meaning and purpose. It might lack the feelings of self love that a teen is really looking for. If a teen is attempting to stop because he or she is being told to, choosing to no longer self harm might not be able to offer deep solace for a teen that is really yearning for love and affection. In this way, trying to end self harm might feel vacant and relapse might easily occur, which points to the necessity of teen self injury treatment.
To get out of the self destructive habit that is inherent in addiction, a teen can call upon love. Parents might say to their teens:
Loving yourself to the deepest degree you may turn the whole pattern around. You might even experience it like a flash of insight. Suddenly, you’ll never want to hurt yourself again. You’ll know that any choice that sucks the life out of you is also sucking the life out of your relationships, your future, and your growth towards adulthood. To turn around self harm and self hatred, find love, and let that be the guiding principle in your life.