It sounds unbelievable, but a sobering new study of 665 kids between the ages of seven and 16 found that a full nine percent of girls and nearly seven percent of boys surveyed have engaged in self-injurious behaviors. The researchers also found that kids as young as seven were engaging in injurious behavior – ranging from cutting to banging their heads or hitting themselves – all as a way of dealing with unbearable psychic pain.
It’s a new take on an old idea: Using a behavior or substance to cope with emotional hurts.
Many experts believe that kids who turn to cutting and other forms of self-injury inherited a predisposition to anxiety, depression and other emotional issues. They start cutting as a way of dealing with their emotional pain.
That isn’t unlike many substance abusers. Drug or alcohol use may begin recreationally, but soon it becomes a way to block out or numb unwanted feelings or pain. It’s not surprising then to realize that nine out of 10 individuals who seek treatment for alcohol or drug addiction have a co-occurring mental health issue like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, trauma or PTSD. Some addiction experts believe the number is even higher, with nearly everyone who struggles with addiction suffering from some sort of mental health disorder.
Even the term “mental health disorder” makes people uncomfortable, and we’re still fighting the stigma of mental illness in our culture. While no one looks down on someone who develops cancer, an individual admitting they suffer from bipolar disorder may get a very different response. These pervasive attitudes are a major contributing factor to the high numbers of sufferers who don’t acknowledge or get treatment for their depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, trauma or PTSD. Then as symptoms persist, they turn to other ways to cope. Some choose drugs or alcohol. Some choose cutting or eating disorders. Others struggle in their careers or relationships and never really understand why.
Integrated Treatment at La Paloma
Fortunately, when addiction and these mental health issues are treated together in a Dual Diagnosis setting, rates of recovery are very high. If you or someone you love needs help with a co-occurring disorder, call La Paloma at the toll-free number on our homepage. Someone is there to take your call 24 hours a day and answer any questions you have about treatment, financing or insurance.