Kellin Murphy Cavanaugh
The University of Saint Joseph
According to Morgan (1979), the 1960’s and 1970’s presented an up trend in self-harm, mostly in adolescent females. Over the decades, this up trend Morgan described has maintained a steady incline. This steady incline raises the question: how are adolescent females discovering this coping mechanism? According to Adler and Adler (2011) it seems that the news of self-harm travels by word of mouth in friend circles, as well as popular and social media. This source also states that these social interactions have helped establish a means for coping to evolve into a form of self-expression and even competition. Via forums, cafeteria conversations, and fiction, participants are granted the choice to remain anonymous or perhaps stand center stage with their habits (Adler & Adler 2011). These mostly unregulated venues pose a second question for those in the counseling profession. Counselors should ask themselves if it is possible that self-harm is developing into another form of self-expression while still acting as a release for the individual committing the act. Craigen and Foster (2012) are careful to acknowledge how similar the act of self-harm is to socially acceptable forms of body modification such as ear piercing, tattoos and eyebrow tweezing. What these practices have in common is that they provide a desirable end through tolerance of a painful means. Craigen and Foster acknowledge the differences between each practice. However, they suggest that perhaps individuals with extreme amounts of body tattoos and/or piercings could be trying to satisfy the same urges as an individual who is a frequent self-injurer. The purpose of this paper is to explore the act of self-harm as a growing trend amongst adolescents, specifically female, so that we can better understand what this widespread epidemic may turn into in the future. In this paper, the word trend will represent the patterned aspects of self-harm behaviors. What promotes its addictive, social quality and what venues are teenage girls seeking out in order to practice it privately or amongst friends? Literature Review
Adler and Adler (2011) have found that self-injury has been defined and treated by the psycho-medical community according to the same specific population with limited clinical views as to its cause. This population of young, attractive, intelligent and socially graceful women, ranging from ages 15 – 24 has been the sample since the late 1960s, not only according to Adler and Adler but to Grunebaum and Klerman (1967) and Brickman (2004) as well. Though treated as a psycho-medical disease for decades, self-injury has evolved into more of a sociological epidemic due to the social contagion it possesses and the accessibility of its practice (Adler & Adler 2011). This research suggests that not only is self-injury in the midst of being demedicalized as a disorder or a disease, but it is actually becoming a social trend because, in addition to accessibility, the 1990s provided many means of sourcing for individuals wanting to explore its practice. During this time period, floods of popular fiction (including books, films and music) and even medical texts cautioned against the spread of self-injury, particularly in adolescent females (Brickman, 2004; Conterio and Lader, 1998; Favazza 1996; Strong, 1998). Lack (1995) targeted one of self-injury’s sources as the evolution of the punk-rock subculture beginning in the late 1970s that then helped the Goth and Emo musical subcultures to evolve later on. Lack describes this source as a community who held a more neutral attitude toward the openness of self-injury and therefore helped to perpetuate its practice. This particular group was motivated by the connection to the music, fashion and ideologies of the culture that was sometimes expressed by a self-destructive outlook that leads to...