New therapy for adolescents: hot peppers instead of “scratching”

"We wanted to find out whether the new therapy helps affected schoolchildren decisively better than conventional methods," study leader michael kaess explained in a release on friday. It is a matter of reducing the pressure to self-harm through alternative actions or strong sensory stimuli and regulating feelings, they said. At the same time, the young people’s sense of well-being and self-esteem should be strengthened. "In acute stress situations, it can help, for example, to send a text message to your best friend, to listen to music, to smell certain fragrances, or to listen to a hot pepper that you are carrying with you," say the experts.

Over the next two years, the doctors and psychologists plan to interview about 70 schoolchildren between the ages of 12 and 17 from heidelberg and the rhein-neckar district and offer help. Short-term behavioral therapy with individual sessions is planned. Young people should learn strategies they can use immediately. A manual that the youths develop together with the therapist is then supposed to help them at home as well. Girls in particular injure themselves in this way.

According to study coordinator gloria fischer, conventional treatment methods are often based on the treatment of depressive or borderline disorders, which are characterized by impulsivity and instability in interpersonal relationships. "These are often young people who ‘function’ quite normally in everyday life," says fischer.

That many schoolchildren have risky behaviors was shown by a representative study of the clinic two years ago. Among more than 1,400 schoolchildren aged 14 to 16 in the rhine-neckar district, one-third of all girls said they had deliberately cut themselves at least once; around 18 percent of female schoolchildren and 8 percent of male schoolchildren do so more often. "We were shocked at how many were doing this," said fischer.

About one-third of the girls reported depression, 15 percent had already had suicidal thoughts, and 8 percent had already tried to kill themselves, according to the study. Boys, on the other hand, were in the lead when it came to drugs and alcohol.

At the end of the current study there should be a standardized manual. The dietmar hopp foundation supports the research project with 40,000 euros.

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