Self-harming behaviors are often of a temporary nature and may be more about experimentation than a sign of mental health issues, suggests a new psychological analysis by Jonas Bjärehed from Lund University in Sweden.
Bjärehed worked with data that showed that four out of ten young people had at some time intentionally hurt themselves. But breaking down the data further showed that only a small minority of the young people self-harmed on a regular basis in a similar way to adults with mental health problems.
Bjärehed notes that self-harm has become the current fashionable teenage syndrome. But just as our understanding of eating disorders in young people has improved, Bjärehed hopes that self-harm will also come to be less mysterious. "It is not the first time young people worry those around them with new types of behavior," he says, giving the examples of the increase in eating disorders in the 1980s and the "hysterics," who worried the doctors of the 19th century by fainting for a multitude of reasons.
"It is important that school and health professionals know how to deal with young people who self-harm. They need to react appropriately and not judge all young people alike," said Bjärehed. "For many of these young people, the behavior seems to be fairly mild and often of a temporary nature. It may be viewed as a matter of experimentation or problems that are not of a serious nature."
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Source: Lund University