self-harm, NSSI, treatment, addiction, stress, mental health, mental illness, cutting, emotional regulation, brain


Self-harm is a coping strategy used by many adolescents dealing with mental disorders. Fifteen articles from academic journals published between 2012 and 2022 were examined. Those who struggle with non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) experience overactivation in the fronto-limbic system of the brain, which includes the amygdala (Kaess et al., 2021). Self-harm decreases activity and stress in the amygdala and increases the amount of dopamine in the brain (Kaess et al., 2021; Reitz et al., 2015). Self-harm may be used as a way to regulate negative affect. Seeing blood might be a significant part of an episode of NSSI, but it is unsure. Seeing blood seemed to be calming in some ways for participants with NSSI (Naoum et al., 2016). Many people describe NSSI as addicting and hard to stop (Pritchard et al., 2021). Aspects of self-harm may be addictive to the self-injurer. Self-harm is understood to be a process of negative reinforcement but may involve positive reinforcement, as well (Worley, 2020). Compared to cravings for substances in those with substance abuse disorder, cravings for NSSI were not as strong (Victor et al., 2012). Implementing strategies used in addiction treatment might be beneficial. Treatment for NSSI might look different for each person, but trust and understanding seem to be important in any form of treatment. Fostering a trusting and understanding environment avoids leaving those who struggle in isolation.

Document Type

Class Project or Paper

Publication Date





Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication




Included in

Psychology Commons