A number of theories have been developed over the years to explain why people harm themselves. Recently research has focused on the negative emotions and coping strategies of people who self-harm, particularly those people in prison or psychiatric hospitals. Researchers now think that people harm themselves to express negative emotions, decrease negative moods and to avoid fully experiencing unpleasant emotions. People who self-harm are more likely to try and avoid, or escape from, their emotions. Studies of college students in the U.S. have found that 17% have self-harmed at some point in their lives with 9.7% harming themselves in the last year. However, there has been little research into the causes of self-harm among this group. A study of 216 college students in the U.S. found that those who were currently self-harming, or who had self-harmed in the past had higher levels of hostility, guilt and sadness than those who had never self-harmed. There was little difference between those who had given up harming themselves and those who were still doing so suggesting that both groups needed careful monitoring and support.
Brown, Seth A., Williams, Kelly and Collins, Amanda - Past and recent deliberate self-harm : emotion and coping strategy differences Journal of Clinical Psychology 63(9), 791-803