Nonsuicial self-injury (NSSI) has become a common theme in counseling with adolescents and young adults. While it may frighten and alarm family and friends, it is important to attempt to understand what may be going on and seek help for that individual struggling with NSSI. NSSI is defined as an intentional, self-inflicted action to damage bodily tissue without the intent to die, while ignoring social approval (Shallcross, 2013). The rates of self-injury may vary, but an article published in the journal of Pediatrics displays rates in early and older adolescents between 7 and 24 percent (Shallcross, 2013). There appear to be no significant gender differences in rates between men and women, but there are some differences in the type of self-injury individuals engage in. Shallcross (2013) reports that females are more likely to cut while males are more likely to self-hit and head-bang. While there are a number of reasons for individuals to use NSSI, the most commonly reported use has been as a coping mechanism to help deal with emotions that are not understood or too overwhelming (Shallcross, 2013). Individuals may use NSSI to ease tension and stress or relieve anger that they may be afraid to express outwardly (Kress, 2013). While NSSI is identified as non-suicidal, this behavior can be related to a higher risk for suicide attempts.
It is important to seek help for someone who may be struggling with NSSI. Counselors and therapists can help provide a safe environment where individuals can work on identifying emotions and expressing feelings to decrease the use of NSSI. Counselors and therapists may also provide stress management techniques that can be used as healthy alternatives for individuals who may otherwise self-injure.
Kress, V. E. (2013, October 30). Nonsuicidal Self-Injury: Assessment and Risk Considerations [Webinar]. In ACA Confronting the Darkness Webinar Series.
Shallcross, L. (2013). When the hurt is aimed inward. Counseling Today, Vol 55/Number 11, pp. 33-41.