• Alex Jarvis

Self Harming in Teens

UNDERSTANDING SELF-HARM & SELF-CUTTING IN TEENS



Self-harm is when someone deliberately hurts themselves to cope with strong or painful emotions. It's a way for the person to have relief from these overwhelming feelings or get control over them.


For some teens, their attempt to stop their feelings through self-injury is, to them, a way of trying to heal themselves. Others self harm so they can at least feel something rather than numbness. Some self-harm to express hopelessness, influence other's behavior, or "get back" at someone.


Whatever the case may be, self-harm should be taken seriously as it can become a compulsion, habit, or default reaction. Repeated self-harm can result to scarring, infections, serious injuries, medical conditions, or accidental death. Those who self-harm are at higher risk of attempting suicide, as well.


Forms of Self-harm


· cutting, carving, branding/marking the body, scratching

· pulling hair

· picking at scabs (old wounds don't heal)

· burning/grazing one's self

· hitting a part of one's body on something hard

· bruising, biting, hitting one's self

· digital self-harm. (This is when teens create another online identity on social media for themselves and post harsh comments about themselves. This alternative identity might also get mean comments from others.)


Some young people and teens deal with strong feelings through lesser-obvious –yet still serious– ways like having unsafe sex, binge drinking, taking too much drugs, or starving themselves.


Cutting


Cutting is most common among teens and young adults –especially girls, and usually starts around the age of 12 to 14. Teens that self-harm by cutting are often described as being impulsive, while some as being overachievers.


Both pediatricians and parents have a hard time understanding why teens would do something to harm themselves. Unsurprisingly, cutting is a complex behavioral problem that's often associated with various psychiatric disorders, which include anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. While it's often misunderstood as attention-seeking, more than anything cutting is a way for young people and teens to release tension, distract themselves from their problems, or relieve feelings of anger/sadness. And, if there’s relief it is but temporary.

In fact, self-harming behaviors are more common than you think. Up to 30.8% of teens admit to trying to harm themselves. *


Signs of self-harm


PHYSICAL Signs

  • bruises

  • scars

  • cuts & scratches (old & fresh) they can't/won't explain

  • patch/es of missing hair

  • broken bones

  • seems very tired/have very little energy


BEHAVIOURAL Symptoms

  • stop seeing friends

  • lose interest in things & activities they usually enjoy

  • changes in eating and/or sleeping patterns

  • drop in performance at school or skip school

  • avoid activities (e.g. swimming) where arms, legs, or torso can be seen

  • wear long sleeves (or any clothes that cover legs or arms) even on hot days

  • keep sharp objects (or implements of self-injury) like stencil knives, razor blades, matches & lighters

  • impulsive/unpredictable behaviors

  • struggles with romantic relationships/friendships

  • needs/prefers to spend a lot of time alone


PSYCHOSOCIAL Symptoms

  • Emotional numbing

  • Depression

  • Emotional instability

  • Mood swings

  • Guilt

  • Increased anxiety (esp. when unable to self-injure)

  • Disgust

  • Shame


Getting Help

Your child might be able to kick the habit on their own, but getting professional help like a counselor, psychologist, or therapist is crucial. Treatment can include psychological counseling and parent or family therapy. Contact JarvisHypnotherapy and find out an intervention that works for your child.


Interventions can help teens understand why they self-harm, help identify their triggers, and help how to stop it. It can assist them in managing strong emotions and learning better/effective ways of expressing these strong feelings.


As a parent of a child who self harms, it's also important that you look after your own emotional and physical wellbeing. This is to help you stay consistent and calm when things get tough –which is good for your child. Seek help for yourself if you're stressed or just needing to talk about the effect of your child's self-harm on you.


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Sources

* https://www.verywellmind.com/teen-cutting-and-self-harm-behaviors-2633862

https://raisingchildren.net.au/teens/mental-health-physical-health/mental-health-disorders-concerns/self-harm

https://roadtogrowthcounseling.com/understanding-teens-and-self-harm/

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