Volume 34, Issue 1, Spring 2020
Is Non-Suicidal Self-Harm in Youth a Mental Disorder?
Non-suicidal self-harm is common in youth. The behavior may have negative and sometimes dangerous consequences, such as feelings of guilt, scars, nerve damage and accidental death. Is this behavior a mental disorder? This question is attracting serious consideration. I want to say that non-suicidal self-harm in youth is never a mental disorder in its own right. Yet, I do not want to commit to saying what is a mental disorder. So I identify the characteristic features and functions of non-suicidal self-harm in youth and show that these features and functions are also seen in non-disordered behaviors in youth. This, I say, shows that non-suicidal self-harm in youth is non-disordered too. I say that non-suicidal self-harm in youth is a characteristic youth behavior that when seen in youth has an understandable practical function. I offer to the general discussion about mental disorder the strategy I use.