The sensations surged up from somewhere inside, like poison through a syringe: a mix of sadness, anxiety, and shame that would overwhelm anyone, especially a teenager.
“I had this Popsicle stick and carved it into sharp point and scratched myself,” Joan, a high school student in New York City said recently; she asked that her last name be omitted for privacy. “I’m not even sure where the idea came from. I just knew it was something people did. I remember crying a lot and thinking, Why did I just do that? I was kind of scared of myself.”
She felt relief as the swarm of distress dissolved, and she began to cut herself regularly, at first with a knife, then razor blades, cutting her wrists, forearms and eventually much of her body. “I would do it for five to 15 minutes, and afterward I didn’t have that terrible feeling. I could go on with my day.”
Self-injury, particularly among adolescent girls, has become so prevalent so quickly that scientists and therapists are struggling to catch up. About 1 in 5 adolescents report having harmed themselves to soothe emotional pain at least once, according to a review of three dozen surveys in nearly a dozen countries, including the United States, Canada and Britain. Habitual self harm, over time, is a predictor for higher suicide risk in many individuals, studies suggest.
Epidemic levels of self-harm among teen girls are often misunderstood and mistreated. That’s finally changing. https://t.co/gxEBKbbva6
— Rachel Simmons (@RachelJSimmons) November 12, 2019