The Secret Addiction of Self Harm

Self Harm. It’s a secret outlet that teens are turning to as a relief from the pain of life.

We hear a lot about it, but what is it really? It’s all over teen culture and it seems to be a popular trend amongst students, but why? Self Harm affects several teens today and is often done as a way to cope with the overwhelming emotions they can’t or don’t know how to handle.

We often characterize Self-Harm as someone who cuts their arms with a blade or something sharp. However Self Harm also includes burning their skin, hitting themselves, head-banging, skin picking or scratching, interfering with a wound that’s healing, bone-breaking, biting and even embedding objects into their skin.

The relief that is initially felt after they self-injure quickly becomes something they crave. It’s a sense of false peace. An addiction forms before they even realize it, and it becomes their prime way to push the numbness aside and gain control of their life that seems to be spiraling out of control.

The face of someone who self harms is as varied as the students you encounter everyday. Self-harm doesn’t care about their financial lifestyle, their family background, their sexual preference, their religious stance, their grades in school, or the color of their skin. This is why it’s important to understand it and be aware of it, because it’s affecting students all around us.

Students use Self-Harm to:

  • Feel Something
  • Calm Themselves
  • Communicate
  • Control
  • Punish Themselves

Bottom line is that they are treating one type of pain with another.

How can you help?

  • Don’t dismiss the issue or hope that “it will eventually stop.”
  • Help students understand the negative emotions they are feeling
  • Work with the student to figure out triggers and healthier coping skills
  • Encourage them to talk to a trained counselor

Paige Clingenpeel is a trained teen therapist, as well as, a national speaker about teen issues. She can be contacted at

WRITTEN BY Amy Hanna and Paige Clingenpeel