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More and more young people are prone to self-harm


Self-harming behavior among teenagers is worryingly common

The professional association of pediatricians (BVKJ) warns of the alarmingly high rates of self-harm among young people in Germany. Already in February the German Medical Journal reported that around 25 to 35 percent of young people in Germany intentionally injured themselves at least once in their life.

The self-injuries examined are not based on the intention of suicide and the extent of the injuries is often rather moderate. However, the percentage of young people who show self-harming behavior is alarmingly high - and some of them carry out such actions regularly. Germany is one of the countries with the highest prevalence rates for self-harming behavior in Europe, emphasizes the BVKJ in relation to the figures of the current study.

Unpleasant emotional states are often triggers

The team led by Professor Paul L. Plener from the Ulm University Hospital reported in the Deutsches Ärzteblatt newspaper about self-harm without intention to kill (non-suicidal) in adolescents and also discussed therapy in line with guidelines. According to the experts, self-harming behavior is often used to regulate unpleasant emotional states. The self-harming behavior (without intention to commit suicide) is defined as "direct, repeated, socially unacceptable damage to body tissues."

What self-harm are typical?

According to the experts, affected adolescents cut, scratch, or burn the skin surface, for example, or deliberately bump into something to injure skin and bones in self-harming actions. It is not uncommon for self-harm to be brought up because a crime is wrongly suspected.

Bullying is an important risk factor

Professor Plener and colleagues have identified a number of risk factors for self-harming behavior. The most important include bullying, psychiatric illnesses, and abuse and neglect in childhood. In addition, in recent years neurobiological research has shown that those affected often have difficulty dealing with stress and react conspicuously compared to healthy peers, reports the BVKJ. Last but not least, experts were able to prove "that the pain threshold seems to have increased for people who repeatedly injure themselves (without wanting to kill themselves)", the association announced on its internet portal "Pediatricians on the Net".

Therapeutic approaches against self-harm

The therapy for self-harming behavior should, according to the experts, primarily be in the form of psychotherapy. Psychological comorbidities (comorbidities) should also be taken into account. With the help of psychotherapeutic interventions, the frequency of self-injuries can be successfully reduced. So far, “none of the therapeutic approaches have shown a clear superiority”, however, according to the BVKJ, randomized controlled studies “showed adolescents small to medium effects after cognitive behavior therapy (KVT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT, also dialectical behavior therapy) and after mentalization-based therapy (MTB). "

A psychoactive substance that shows a specific effectiveness in the treatment of self-harm and could be used for drug therapy is not yet known. (fp)

Author and source information


Video: Understanding and managing self-harm in a school setting April 2016 (August 2020).