(See also Suicidal Behavior in Children and Adolescents Suicidal Behavior in Children and Adolescents Suicidal behavior is an action intended to harm oneself and includes suicidal gestures, suicide attempts, and completed suicide. Suicidal ideation is thoughts and plans about suicide. Suicide... read more .)
Adolescents who abuse drugs or other substances Substance Use and Abuse in Adolescents Substance use among adolescents ranges from experimentation to severe substance use disorders. All substance use, even experimental use, puts adolescents at risk of short-term problems, such... read more are more likely to injure themselves.
In some communities, self-injury suddenly becomes a fad in a high school, and many adolescents do it. In such cases, self-injuries gradually stop over time.
Self-injury suggests that an adolescent is in great distress. However, in many adolescents, self-injury does not indicate that suicide is a risk. Instead, it may be a self-punishing action that they feel they deserve. Self-injury can also be used to gain the attention of parents and/or significant others, express anger, or identify with a peer group. In other adolescents (those with more severe mental disturbances and less social support), the risk of suicide is increased.
Other factors that may increase the risk of suicide include the following:
Harming themselves often
Using several methods to harm themselves
Feeling less socially connected to other people, especially their parents
Feeling that life has little or no meaning
Seeking mental health care often
Having suicidal thoughts
All adolescents who deliberately injure themselves should be evaluated by a doctor experienced in working with troubled adolescents. The doctor tries to determine whether suicide is a risk and to identify the underlying distress that led to self-injury. Doctors try to determine whether the adolescent has issues with low self-esteem or any number of other mental health issues, such as disorders of anxiety Overview of Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents Anxiety disorders are characterized by fear, worry, or dread that greatly impairs the ability to function and is out of proportion to the circumstances. There are many types of anxiety disorders... read more , mood Depression and Mood Dysregulation Disorder in Children and Adolescents Depression includes a feeling of sadness (or, in children and adolescents, irritability), and/or loss of interest in activities. In major depression, these symptoms last 2 weeks or more and... read more , eating patterns Overview of Eating Disorders Eating disorders involve a disturbance of eating or of behavior related to eating, typically including Changes in what or how much people eat Measures people take to prevent food from being... read more , substance use Overview of Substance-Related Disorders Drugs are an integral part of everyday life for many people, whether the drugs are used for legitimate medical purposes or recreationally (see table Drugs with Medical and Recreational Uses)... read more , or trauma Acute and Posttraumatic Stress Disorders in Children and Adolescents Acute and posttraumatic stress disorders are reactions to overwhelming traumatic events that involve recurring, intrusive memories of the event as well as emotional numbness and increased tension... read more .
Treatment usually involves individual (and sometimes group) therapy. Therapy focuses on teaching adolescents how to be more aware of their emotions, how to accept negative emotions as part of life, how to develop more appropriate ways of responding to stress, and how to resist urges to behave self-destructively.