Teens who cut themselves are more likely to engage in unprotected sex according to a new study by researchers at the Bradley/Hasbro Childrens Psychiatric Research Center (BHCPRC) in Providence, RI. Published this month in the journal Pyschiatric Services, researchers report a previously uncharted link between self-mutilation and sexual risk.
Lead researcher Larry K. Brown, MD, of BHCPRC believes that the findings should especially resonate with physicians since they are often the first ones in the medical community to determine if patients have been harming themselves. "When adolescents come in to seek clinicians, theyll know if a patient self-cuts, but very seldom do clinicians think that he or she is taking sexual risks too," says Brown. In addition to finding a link to sexual behavior, the study found that self-cutters were significantly more likely to be white, female, and to have histories of sexual abuse.
According to Brown, none of the researchers realized that there would be such a strong relationship between self-cutting and sexual risk. Current theory holds that adolescents who cut do it because they are dissociating, or removing themselves from the trauma of having been sexually abused. However, the researchers discovered that even when researchers controlled for abuse factors, self-cutting is strongly associated with sexual risk behaviors such as not using condoms. "Our first thought was that the subjects cut themselves because of previous sexual abuse, but theres much more than that – theres some link between not being able to manage your feelings which leads you to cut yourself and also make it likely that youll take sexual risks," Brown explained.
Carol L. Hoy | EurekAlert!
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