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New self-injury trend in teens

By: Lauren Harper

Self-embedding may be becoming another trend in young adults, where teens insert objects like paper clips into their skin. Photo courtesy of Google images

High school brings about a lot of stress in teenagers, with anxiety about friends, grades, sports and relationships being some of the main causes. Along with hormonal imbalances, this buildup of stress can lead to depression for many teenagers. Some teens resort to self abuse to relieve their depression, which includes cutting and bad eating behaviors like anorexia and bulimia. Recently, a new trend in self-injury called self-embedding has been discovered.

            Self-embedding is a more extreme form of self abuse and involves inserting objects like glass, metal, and wood into the skin. One report of self-embedding in a 16-year-old girl told of how she had more than 20 objects beneath her skin, which included a paper clip, a small screw, and pencil lead. Experts are not sure of exactly how many cases of self-embedding there are among teenagers due to having many teenagers hide the fact that they are doing so, and having teens admit to intentionally putting the objects in their skin is rare. So far, there have been eleven confirmed cases of self-embedding in the United States, with most of them being girls ages 14 to 18. Among the eleven cases combined, over 70 objects had been inserted into the body in the arms, neck, feet, hands, and ankles.

            Dr. William Shiels of Nationwide Children’s Hospital looked into self-embedding after encountering a few cases of the habit, but found little about it in the medical books. One thing he does know, though, is that it is a trend that is more under the radar at the moment and “just hasn’t been discussed and it hasn’t been studied.” Along with depression, some disorders that the teenagers suffered from included bipolar disorder, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. According to Shiels, “One girl told us it’s easier to deal with physical pain than the emotional pain in her life. The reason they cut and embed is an effort to relieve their internal pain, the pain that’s inside.”

            There are, of course, many medical issues, both mental and physical, that are connected to self-embedding. Aside from the psychiatric damage, there are many physical consequences associated with it. When objects are inserted into the arms or legs, infections can result in both the muscle and the bone. If veins, nerves, and tendons are hit in the process, the soft tissue can be seriously harmed and nerve damage can even occur.

            Though this is a serious condition, a lot of attention is not being brought to the subject. It is a good thing for those in the medical field to communicate with each other about the condition, but for the media to distribute the information could have bad consequences. The more teens hear about the condition, the more likely they are to try it for themselves. Hopefully, a steady balance between giving needed attention to the condition, and keeping adolescents from engaging in the trend can be kept.

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