NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Major depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders are common among adolescent girls who engage in self-cutting, according to findings published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

"Deliberate self-harm has become more prevalent in recent years among adolescents," Dr. Jukka Hintikka, of Kuopio University Hospital, Finland, and colleagues write.

In the current study, the researchers examined the prevalence of mental disorders and associated factors in a sample of community-dwelling adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 years. The investigators drew a sample of 80 adolescents who reported current self-cutting from a large sample of 4205 community adolescents. Of the 80 subjects, 44 gave consent for further assessment. Control subjects (those who weren't cutters) were age- and gender-matched to each study subject.

Overall, 79 percent of the 41 self-cutting females had mental disorders, compared with 21 percent of controls. At least two psychiatric diagnoses were observed in 42 percent of female self-cutters and in 7 percent of controls.

None of the three self-cutting males or their controls had a mental disorder.

"We found that major depressive disorder (63 percent versus 5 percent), anxiety disorders (37 percent versus 12 percent) and eating disorders (15 percent versus 0 percent) were much more common in a non-clinical sample of self-cutting girls than among controls," Hintikka elaborated in an interview with Reuters Health. "In the final multivariate model, the presence of major depressive disorder, signs of alcohol misuse, and internalizing behavior strongly associated with self-cutting in community-living girls."

Summing up, Hintikka said, "Whenever self-cutting is identified, it should lead to psychiatric assessment with precise diagnostics and active treatment, if needed."

SOURCE: Journal of Adolescent Health May 2009.