What are the consequences of self-injury in adolescence?
Adolescents who self-injure often engage in behaviours which result in superficial or minor tissue damage, such as cuts, burns, and bruises to the arms, torso, and legs. However, the severity of self-injury in adolescence can increase over time, and adolescents who self-injure are more likely than adolescents who don’t self-injure to attempt suicide in the future. In the long-term, self-injury can also lead to severe and life-threatening wounds, resulting in blood loss, infection, and nerve damage, and may lead to long-term psychological problems, such as depression and anxiety, and a breakdown of relationships with family and friends.
In the short-term, although adolescents who self-injure can experience feelings of relief and calm after engaging in the behaviour, these feelings are often followed shortly by feelings of shame, anxiety, and guilt for not overcoming the urge to self-injure. When adolescents are unable to stop engaging in self-injury, they can also feel distressed, frustrated, and hopeless, which may lead to further self-injury in the future. The reactions of parents and carers, and timely referral of adolescents who self-injure to professionals for treatment, can have a significant impact on breaking this cycle of self-loathing and hopelessness.