Deliberate self-harm in adolescents

Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2007 Jul;20(4):337-42. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e3281c49ff1.


Purpose of review: To review literature on young people who deliberately harmed themselves that was published between March 2005 and December 2006 in English language journals.

Recent findings: Recent follow-up studies have confirmed that deliberate self-harm at a young age is an important indication of mental health problems in later life, including a strongly increased risk of subsequent suicidal behavior. Main recent research includes study of risk factors and predictors of deliberate self-harm, and continuing study of the effects of pharmacological treatment, in particular selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, in children and adolescents.

Summary: Recent findings regarding risk factors of adolescent deliberate self-harm confirm the importance of depressive disorders, deficient problem solving, exposure to suicidal behavior and familial characteristics. More biological studies of young people are required to provide evidence regarding neurobiological correlates of risk factors of suicidality in young people. The association between the use of antidepressants in depressed children and adolescents and the emergence of suicidal behavior continues to be a matter of debate due to the conflicting evidence from ecological or observational studies and meta-analyses. Although psychotherapeutic approaches have been examined less extensively, the results regarding cognitive behavior therapy in depressed and suicidal young people are clearly positive. Measures to prevent suicidal behavior in young people require further research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology
  • Age Factors
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy
  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Psychotherapy
  • Risk Factors
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / epidemiology*
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Suicide, Attempted / prevention & control
  • Time Factors


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors