Parents should act thoughtfully

But how should parents react when they suspect something? Freisleder advises thoughtful action: "Don't go off at the moment of discovery, but first take a breath and later approach the child as calmly and calmly as possible." If the child blocks it, parents should try again or seek help from teachers and friends. Going to an expert should only be done in consultation with the child.

Self-injurious behavior on the rise

Child and adolescent psychiatrists have observed an increase in self-injurious behavior in Germany over the past 30 years. Those affected reach for sharp or pointed objects such as razor blades, broken glass, safety pins or scissors. Others injure themselves with cigarettes or irons or bang their heads against the wall. In rare extreme cases, it even results in broken bones.

Girls are more often affected by scratching

An estimated 800,000 people in Germany have self-harmed several times in their lives, including many young people. However, reliable statistical data on the frequency of SVV in Germany are not yet available.
The European study "Child and Adolescent Self Harm in Europe (CASE)" assumes about four to ten percent of 15- to 16-year-olds. More than 30,000 adolescents of this age were surveyed, including in England, Norway and the Netherlands. Girls are affected more often than boys. The reason: unlike men, women are more likely to direct aggression against themselves. In addition, SVV is often a component of borderline or eating disorders, illnesses from which mainly women suffer.

Happiness hormones are released

"The triggers for scratching attacks are usually stressful events that young people feel overwhelmed by," says Freisleder. Accidents, for example,
Operations, chronic illnesses, abuse, conflicts in the family. Or the separation of parents, as Hanna experienced. "When Dad was gone, I thought, I can't take this," she says. "As soon as I scored and saw the blood flow, I immediately felt better." Getting rid of the tension is what sufferers are primarily concerned with. "During an injury, the body releases happy hormones, endorphins, which initially lead to pain suppression. This endorphin release can trigger the need for repetition if an overall bad mood prevails," says Bernd Heßlinger, senior physician in the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at Freiburg University Hospital. Why some adolescents are more susceptible than others is not yet clearly understood. Heßlinger's colleague Christian Fleischhacker suspects that SVV may be due to impulse control disorders and a deficiency of the brain messenger serotonin, which also plays a role in depression. Craving could also have a genetic component.

What do therapies do?

Sufferers can be helped with therapy. "We teach patients that tension can also be relieved without hurting yourself," Heßlinger says. He names 86 methods for reducing tension. Initially, patients switch to other strong stimuli, such as biting into chili, taking an ice-cold shower or violent olfactory stimuli like ammonia. "As we progress, we look for socially meaningful tension relievers, such as exercise instead of chili," Heßlinger says. Hanna, who has since undergone therapy, even jogged almost around Lake Starnberg the other day. "I felt more exhausted than ever, I thought my heart was going to jump out," she says. "It's a crazy feeling."