Self-harm is Fashionable According to World Experts

Self-harm is a disturbing trend that has raised concerns among psychologists. Is self-harm considered fashionable in some circles? Physical pain is sometimes so severe that it blocks out anxiety, depression and even obsessive thoughts. Is this why so many people are deliberately hurting themselves?

“Some people refer to it as the new anorexia”  -  Nancy Heath, Professor in Educational Psychology

World experts have reported a phenomenal increase in the number of cases involving non-suicidal self-injury by teenagers.  A significant number of teenagers are looking for relief from the emotional distress of a detached world that is moving too quickly for them.  When the pressure becomes too much to handle, many teenagers lack the skills needed to relax and unwind.  Self-harm provides a sense of ‘release’ or ‘control’, but these feelings are only temporary.  They say parents and teachers have no idea how to recognize self-harm, or what to do.

“This is a generation of children where  a certain portion of them are quite distressed. A lot of them are being rushed about from one healthy activity to another. After a  while, too many healthy activities are unhealthy. A lot of the activities are competitive, so performance comes in” - Barent Walsh, Psychologist & Author

Since 2006, Modelling superstars and Hollywood actresses have been photographed with cuts on their arms.  The disturbing trend is ringing alarm bells and psychologists fear that in some groups of young people, it’s virtually a fashionable thing to do or a way of expressing unhappiness or distress.


“We have a lot of fragmentation and a lot of isolative activity where we don’t even make eye contact. We  don’t sit down at dinner and look at each other any more. We have two parents working, so they are very busy and very tired. So people go to their own individual things and I think we have a lot less mentoring by people who love and care about their kids than ever before” -  Wendy Lader, Clinician & Author 

What’s even more disturbing is that there are self-injury websites glorifying abusive habits and pictures of open wounds are blatantly displayed.  Chatrooms provide a forum where emotionally ’mixed-up’ teens egg eachother on - the trend crosses gender, ethnic, education and income boundaries.  Self-harm used to be limited to teens with mental health issues or high school woes.  It is now prevalent among privileged kids who come from relatively stable families.

“All of us will get a little high from alcohol. Or if they try grass, even healthy kids are going to have a reaction to it. Kids who are healthy who self injure, they are going to be hurt, it’s not going to be helpful. So kids who continue to self injure, it’s indicative of an internal problem. They are having trouble dealing with their emotions” - Wendy Lader, Clinician & Author 

Amy Winehouse is infamous for her scarred arms despite being one of the most talented songwriters in the world today. The late Princess Diana also talked about how she self-harmed.

“Kids are not learning about themselves, their own internal processes, what they think, what they feel. They are just reacting because things are so fast. They don’t sit with anger and frustration and figure out what it is and what they want to say about it” -  Wendy Lader, Clinician & Author   

I like many others, struggle to comprehend why people deliberately hurt themselves.  When a self-harming person cuts themselves, the brain will secrete endorphins to deal with the pain caused.  They will experience a sense of pleasure from the activity and feel that the problem that has led them to cut has been alleviated.  Therefore self-harm can be just as addictive as drinking and smoking.  As many as 13 to 25 per cent of youths in Australia, Canada, Britain and the United States of America have tried to hurt themselves by burning, cutting or punching themselves until they bruise. 

“This generation is quite striking. I am now seeing very capable, competent young people who are excelling in school, have friends, come from stable families, and yet they self injure” - Barent Walsh, Psychologist & Author

Self-harming is not an easy thing to admit to - males are just as likely to engage in this kind of behaviour but are less likely to seek help or confide in a friend.  Even when sufferers do reach out, there are very few facilities or community-based specialist clinics to help with diagnosis, counselling and treatment.

“There are cultural changes that have created a sense of invisibility in kids, to the point where they think they need to advertise on the outside what they are thinking on the inside. I call it spicing up the cover, so somebody might read the book” - Wendy Lader, Clinician & Author 

People who self-harm risk infections, shock (from blood loss) and they can die as a result of severe injury or bad cuts that don’t get treated immediately.  Without professional care, they may continue to feel socially isolated and depressed.  Other problems include:  eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, or chronic depression.  

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  1. Great article one that needs to be shared.

  2. A sad fact of life!

  3. As a teaching assistant at the University of Pittsburgh, I was made aware of this trend among undergraduates. It’s a real problem.

  4. A very disturbing trend.

  5. Life has its absurd side. Self harm maybe a way of diverting one’s anxiety. A startling article to come to light.

  6. very serious issue you have shared…this this will be the disturbing trend..

  7. It’s a very good article, and very well researched. ( wanted that stated before the second part, since this isn’t pointed towards you at all.)

    But I have to say, these people need to find other ways of venting their anxiety; writing, singing, exercise, anything at all. this is extremely disturbing behavior and they really need to find more logical ways of dealing with the stress before it get them killed.

  8. A very well researched and professionally written article, Mila. The statistic that jumps out at me is the “13 to 25 percent” of kids in Australia, Canada, Britain and the U.S. who have engaged in this self-destructive behavior. At the top end, that makes it 25 kids out of 100, and that is really disturbing. I wonder if that includes excessive body piercing, branding or tattooing as well, as there is pain involved with all three.

  9. yes so true so bad so sad

  10. A very disturbing trend.

  11. A very important look into one of life’s disturbing trends. Most of the kids today suffer from lack of communication, and problem solving, which often leads to disturbing trends, such as this.

  12. Excellent article and one that explains many reasons behind this “problem” with kids.

  13. William - that’s a difficult question to answer but I’ll do my best LOL! In tribes, piercing and tattooing is part of the initiation ceremony.Young people demonstrate that they have mastered pain. It’s a means of identification. Members of a tribe are identified by the specific body parts they tattooed and/or pierced. Females used their tattoos and pierced body parts to look more attractive to males. How should we view piercing and tattooing today? Is it an outward expression of pain they experience on the inside? Piercing and tattooing by a knife or a razor are viewed by some psychologists as a cry of distress - self-mutilation. Ways to deal with internal pain resulting from the conflict between the demands of family and demands of peers. Hope that answered your question Will:)

  14. Another thought provoking and well written article Mila.
    For my own two penneth - I think it is the result of the big wrench, when parents demand offspring to grow up and offspring try to prove they have. Some obviously aren’t quite ready and need more time and help, but are afraid to admit it or ask.

  15. majority of young people who self-harm are aged between 11 and 25 years… that is so sad… :(

  16. Yes Oldster, maybe parents (especially these days when two incomes is necessary to pay the mortgage etc) through no fault of their own, simply lack the time and patience to keep communication open.

  17. A great write! Excellent points! Thanks for getting the word out there!

  18. First, great article. Second, not a newtrend, just openly more public now due to our IM and web pages. Had to stop youths from doing this years ago.Then it was cig burns and sliced knuckles or wall beatings. It’s not kids of today, its all of yesterday and yester year. Awarness is what helps. Become aware then offer help.
    Friend, fan, smile

  19. What you are saying is dead right Paul - thx for your insight and hands-on knowledge :)

  20. Now I understand better why they are many people who tattoo themselves. Great info! :-)

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