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Teens and Self Harm

Posted by Sue Scheff on June 27, 2015  /   Posted in Teen Help

Teen that Self-Harm

CuttingSelf-injury (self-harm) with teenagers has been a constant and growing concern for parents and professionals.

Cutting is most common when it comes to self harm.

Cutting isn’t new, but this form of self-injury (SI) has been out in the open more in recent years, portrayed in movies and on TV — even talked about by celebrities who have admitted to cutting themselves at some point.

Cutting is a serious issue that affects many teens. Even if you haven’t heard about cutting, chances are good that your teen has and might even know someone who does it. Like other risky behaviors, cutting can be dangerous and habit-forming. In most cases, it is also a sign of deeper emotional distress. In some cases, peers can influence teens to experiment with cutting.

The topic of cutting can be troubling for parents. It can be hard to understand why a teen would deliberately self-injure, and worrisome to think your teen — or one of your teen’s friends — could be at risk.

But parents who are aware of this important issue and understand the emotional pain it can signal are in a position to help.

EmbeddedAnother form of self harm, related to cutting, is “self-embedding“.

Objects such as metal (paper clips), crayons, and plastics are some of the examples of what teens are inserting into their skin after cutting themselves.  Self-embedding is generally not a suicidal act, but a person can develop skin infections or worse: Bone infections or deep muscle infections.

If you discover that your teen is cutting, there are several important keys to remember. First and foremost, approach your teen with a level head. Address your teen calmly and supportively.  Do not react angrily or upset your teen in any way.

Experts warn that overreacting or reacting loudly or angrily can often push your teen further away and increase the cutting or self injuring behaviors. Your teen needs to know you are open to hearing what she or he has to say and getting him/her the help they need. You should also tell your teen that you are not upset with them, love them, and know they are in a lot of pain.

SelfInjuryCounseling for a teen that cuts is crucial. It can often take many years of therapy before your teen is willing or able to uncover the reasons they cut. Schools, pediatricians and emergency rooms can be extremely helpful at providing resources for teens that cut.

Often there are local support groups for parents who feel guilty or unsure of how to deal with a teen that cuts.

If your teen is cutting and you have exhausted your local resources or he/she is unwilling to get help and would like to consider residential therapy, please contact us for more information.

Resources: Kids Health

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