Self-mutilative behavior in adolescents who attempt suicide by overdose

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2001 Sep;40(9):1062-9. doi: 10.1097/00004583-200109000-00015.


Objective: To examine the cognitive/affective and behavioral symptoms of adolescent suicide attempters with self-mutilative behavior (SMB).

Method: Adolescents evaluated after a suicide attempt that occurred between 1996 and 2000 were divided into two groups: suicide attempters with a history of SMB (n = 52) and suicide attempters without SMB (n = 43). The groups were then compared on psychiatric diagnosis, suicide intent, depression, hopelessness, loneliness, anger, reckless behavior, substance use, and family functioning.

Results: Carving on the skin and picking at a wound were the most commonly reported SMBs, occurring in about one third of the sample. The SMB group was significantly more likely to be diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, major depression, and dysthymia and had higher scores on measures of hopelessness, loneliness, anger, risk taking, reckless behavior, and alcohol use than did the non-SMB group. Loneliness increased the odds of SMB almost 6-fold.

Conclusions: Adolescent suicide attempts with SMB are associated with greater cognitive/affective and behavioral symptoms. Adolescent suicide attempters should be routinely screened for SMB.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Affect
  • Child
  • Cognition
  • Drug Overdose
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk-Taking
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology*
  • Social Behavior
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology*