Science Current Events | Science News | Brightsurf.com
 

Physiological markers for cutting, other self-harming behaviors by teenage girls found

June 16, 2006
Non-fatal, self-inflicted injuries by adolescent and young adult females are major public health problems and researchers have found physiological evidence that this behavior may lead to a more serious psychological condition called borderline personality disorder.

University of Washington psychologists have discovered that adolescent girls who engage in behaviors such as cutting themselves have lower levels of serotonin, a hormone and brain chemical, in their blood. They also have reduced levels in the parasympathetic nervous system of what is called respiratory sinus arrhythmia, a measure of the ebb and flow of heart rate along with breathing.

"A low level of this measure of the parasympathetic nervous system is characteristic of people who are anxious and depressed and among boys who are delinquent. But this is the first study to show it among adolescent girls who engage in self-harming behavior," said Theodore Beauchaine, UW associate professor of psychology.

The findings come from a study that also uncovered sharp disparities in the number of self-harming events and suicide attempts reported by the girls and their parents.

The research, headed by Sheila Crowell, a UW psychology doctoral student, focused on girls because self-harming behavior affects females far more often than it does males. The study included 23 girls, ages 14 to 18, who engaged in what psychologists call parasuicidal behavior. Participants were included if they had engaged in three or more self-harming behaviors in the previous six months or five or more such behaviors in their lifetime. An equal number of girls of the same ages who did not engage this behavior were enrolled as a comparison group.

The adolescents in the parasuicide group reported far more incidents of self-harming behavior than did their parents. Individuals engaged in this kind of behavior between 11 and 839 times. Their parents, however, reported a range of 0 to 205 incidents.

Similarly, the girls reported more than three times the number self-harming behaviors with intent to die, 310 events versus 90, than their parents did. However, the girls and their parents were very close on the number of times an adolescent required medical attention.

Twenty of the girls, or 87 percent, reported at least one attempted suicide, but Crowell said this number is not that surprising in this population.

"You need to understand a person's intent and the lethality of their attempts," she said. "Did they take a small number of Tylenol or were they holding a loaded gun to their head?"

She noted cutting was the most common self-harming behavior in which the girls engaged. Eight-two percent of girls used instruments ranging from paper clips to kitchen knives and razors with the intent of hurting themselves.

"These attempts have to be taken seriously," said Beauchaine. "These girls may be really at risk for later suicide, and in the long term there needs to be studies of the progression of self-harm attempts."

To find physiological markers of self-harming behavior, the UW researchers showed both groups of adolescents a three-minute film clip from the movie "The Champ" depicting a boy with his dying father. Previous studies have shown the film can induce sadness. A number of different psychophysiological measures were collected from each of the girls before, while and after viewing the film clip. Following the viewing a small blood sample was taken to measure whole-blood serotonin.

The girls who engaged in self-harming behavior had lower levels of respiratory sinus arrhythmia in their parasympathetic nervous system while watching the film clip. These measures, the researchers argue, support the idea that the inability to regulate emotions and impulsivity can trigger self-harming behavior.

"This research supports the primary theory that borderline personality disorder is caused by an inability to manage emotions. These girls have an excessively strong emotional reactions and they have extreme difficulty in controlling those emotions," said Beauchaine. "Their self-harming behavior serves to distract them from these emotions."

Borderline Personality Disorder is far more serious than self-harming behavior and people with the condition have a very high suicide rate. An estimated 5.8 million to 8.7 million Americans, mostly women, suffer from borderline personality disorder. People with the condition have a multiple spectrum of disorders that are marked by emotional instability, difficulty in maintaining close relationships, eating disorders, impulsivity, chronic uncertainty about life goals and addictive behaviors such as using drugs and alcohol. They also have major impact on the medical system by being among the highest users of emergency and in-patient medical services.

University of Washington


Related Self-harming Behavior Current Events and Self-harming Behavior News Articles


The 'choking game,' psychological distress and bullying
Ontario's youth are experiencing a different kind of high -- approximately seven percent (an estimated 79,000 students in grades 7 to 12) report participating in a thrill-seeking activity called the "choking game", which involves self-asphyxiation or having been choked by someone else on purpose.

Mother-daughter conflict, low serotonin level may be deadly combination
A combination of negative mother-daughter relationships and low blood levels of serotonin, an important brain chemical for mood stability, may be lethal for adolescent girls, leaving them vulnerable to engage in self-harming behaviors such as cutting themselves.
More Self-harming Behavior Current Events and Self-harming Behavior News Articles

The Adolescent & Young Adult Self-Harming Treatment Manual: A Collaborative Strengths-Based Brief Therapy Approach

The Adolescent & Young Adult Self-Harming Treatment Manual: A Collaborative Strengths-Based Brief Therapy Approach
by Matthew D. Selekman (Author)


A detailed treatment protocol for working with self-harming adolescents and young adults. Self-harming behavior in young adults and adolescents is one of the most intimidating and challenging presenting problems therapists and healthcare and school professionals face in their practice settings, yet the literature on this behavior remains scant. This workbook, a companion to Selekman’s Working with Self-Harming Adolescents, provides a detailed treatment protocol for working with this challenging population. It is a user-friendly resource book for conducting individual, couple, family, and group therapy with young adult and adolescent self-harming clients. In addition, it presents a plethora of highly effective therapeutic strategies and interventions and practice guidelines. This manual...

Freedom from Selfharm: Overcoming Self-Injury with Skills from DBT and Other Treatments

Freedom from Selfharm: Overcoming Self-Injury with Skills from DBT and Other Treatments
by Kim Gratz (Author), Alexander Chapman (Author), Barent Walsh (Foreword)


Self-injury can be as addictive as any drug, and the secrecy and shame many sufferers feel about this behavior can keep them feeling trapped. But if you're ready to replace self-harm with a set of healthy coping skills, this compassionate and practical book can help.This complete guide to stopping self-injury gives you the facts about self-harm, corrects common myths about this behavior, and provides self-soothing techniques you can begin using right away for regulating difficult or overwhelming emotions. Freedom from Self-Harm also includes self-assessment worksheets, guidance for seeking professional help, and information about the most effective therapies and medications. Drawn from treatments such as dialectical behavior therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy, the tools in this...

Living on the Razor's Edge: Solution Oriented Brief Family Therapy with Self Harming Adolescents (Norton Professional Books)

Living on the Razor's Edge: Solution Oriented Brief Family Therapy with Self Harming Adolescents (Norton Professional Books)
by Matthew D. Selekman (Author), Bill O'Hanlon (Author), Bill O'Hanlon (Foreword)


This text aims to provide therapists with a practice-orientated guidebook for working with self-harming adolescents, a growing and challenging treatment population. It presents a flexible client-informed solution-brief family therapy model for self-harming adolescents that integrates the best elements of solution-focused, narrative, postmodern, strategic, cognitive and expressive therapy approaches with Native American healing methods and rituals. Numerous connection-building therapeutic experiments and rituals are presented for helping to foster closer and more meaningful relationships between parents and adolescents. Many of the therapeutic techniques and strategies presented in this volume are empirically supported by research on adolescent development, protective factors of resilient...

The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for Bipolar Disorder: Using DBT to Regain Control of Your Emotions and Your Life (New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook)

The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for Bipolar Disorder: Using DBT to Regain Control of Your Emotions and Your Life (New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook)
by Sheri Van Dijk MSW (Author), Zindel V. Segal PhD (Foreword)


Even if you've just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it's likely that you've been living with it for a long time. You've probably already developed your own ways of coping with recurring depression, the consequences of manic episodes, and the constant, uncomfortable feeling that you're at the mercy of your emotions. Some of these methods may work; others might do more harm than good. The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for Bipolar Disorder will help you integrate your coping skills with a new and effective dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) plan for living well with bipolar disorder.The four DBT skills you'll learn in this workbook-mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness-will help you manage your emotional ups and downs and...

Self-Injury: When Pain Feels Good (Resources for Changing Lives) (Resources for Changing Lives) (Resources for Changing Lives)

Self-Injury: When Pain Feels Good (Resources for Changing Lives) (Resources for Changing Lives) (Resources for Changing Lives)
by Edward T. Welch (Author)


If you have ever purposefully injured yourself, it may seem normal, even right. But if you haven't, it seems impossible to understand those who have. After all, don't living creatures avoid pain?



Edward T. Welch writes this eye-opening and encouraging booklet assuming that you feel trapped in a cycle of self-injury or that you love someone who does.



Welch helps loved ones to understand the self-injurer's world. And if you are the one who feels trapped by this behavior, he lovingly describes a cure that is more attractive than you think.



If you want peace and rest, you must look away from yourself. Look to Jesus--the answers reside in him.



There are 26 other helpful booklets in the Resources for Changing Lives series.

Helping Teens Who Cut: Understanding and Ending Self-Injury

Helping Teens Who Cut: Understanding and Ending Self-Injury
by Michael Hollander (Author)


Discovering that your teen “cuts” is absolutely terrifying; before you understand what really motivates cutting, you may worry your child is contemplating suicide. What can you do to help when every attempt to address the behavior seems to push him or her further away? In this compassionate, straightforward book, Dr. Michael Hollander, a leading authority on self-injury, spells out the facts about cutting--and what to do to make it stop. You’ll learn how overwhelming emotions lead some teens to hurt themselves, and how proven treatments--chief among them dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)--can help your child become well again. Helping Teens Who Cut demonstrates how to talk to your teen about cutting without making it worse, and explains exactly what to look for in a therapist...

The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Diary: Monitoring Your Emotional Regulation Day by Day

The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Diary: Monitoring Your Emotional Regulation Day by Day
by Matthew McKay (Author), Jeffrey Wood (Author)


Difficult emotions like anger, fear, sadness, guilt, and shame are part of being alive and are meant to help protect us, but when they get out of control, these emotions can also cause severe pain. When you're in the grip of an emotional storm, it's all too easy to overreact, lash out at others, or become angry with yourself. Therapists created dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, to help people with overwhelming emotions calm themselves when their feelings become too painful or out of control.The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Diary presents an overview of each of the four DBT skills-distress tolerance, mindfulness, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness-and includes a journal you can use each day to monitor your successes, chart your progress, and stay on track making...

Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation

Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation
by Steven Levenkron (Author)


A seminal work on treating self-mutilation, revised and updated with illuminating case studies and newly available resources. Nearly a decade ago, Cutting boldly addressed a traumatic psychological disorder now affecting as many as two million Americans and one in fifty adolescents. More than that, it revealed self-mutilation as a comprehensible, treatable disorder, no longer to be evaded by the public and neglected by professionals. Using copious examples from his practice, Steven Levenkron traces the factors that predispose a personality to self-mutilation: genetics, family experience, childhood trauma, and parental behavior. Written for sufferers, parents, friends, and therapists, Cutting explains why the disorder manifests in self-harming behaviors and describes how patients can be...

Helping Children and Young People who Self-harm: An Introduction to Self-harming and Suicidal Behaviours for Health Professionals

Helping Children and Young People who Self-harm: An Introduction to Self-harming and Suicidal Behaviours for Health Professionals
by Tim McDougall (Author), Marie Armstrong (Author), Gemma Trainor (Author)


Every year thousands of children and young people attend emergency departments with problems resulting from self-harm. More still come to the attention of CAMHS teams, school nurses and other community-based services. Helping Children and Young People who Self-harm provides clear and practical guidance for health professionals and other members of the children’s workforce who are confronted by this complex and difficult area. Providing accessible evidence-based advice, this textbook looks at: what we mean by self-harm and its prevalence the legal background what works for young people who self-harm what children and young people think about self-harm assessment and interventions for self-harm prevention of self-harm service provision and care pathways. Essential for all those...

Mindfulness for Borderline Personality Disorder: Relieve Your Suffering Using the Core Skill of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Mindfulness for Borderline Personality Disorder: Relieve Your Suffering Using the Core Skill of Dialectical Behavior Therapy
by Blaise Aguirre MD (Author), Gillian Galen PsyD (Author)


If you are like many others living with borderline personality disorder (BPD), you know what it’s like to be overwhelmed by intense and fluctuating emotions; to have difficulty with relationships; and to constantly struggle with troubling thoughts and behaviors. BPD can be especially difficult to treat, though there are ways to gain control over your symptoms and live a happier, healthier life. Expanding on the core skill of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), Mindfulness for Borderline Personality Disorder will help you target and successfully manage many of the familiar symptoms of BPD. Inside, you will learn the basics of mindfulness through specific exercises, and will gain powerful insight through real-life stories from people who have BPD. If you are ready to take that...

© 2014 BrightSurf.com