Why Is My Teenager Cutting?

Kids cutting themselves, this was not something we knew about when I was growing up. Now most parents and teenagers are aware of it, and more likely know someone who does it.

Self-injury is a behavior that can occur earlier than age ten, but more often starts in early adolescence. It is usually done in private. Any number of sharp implements can be used to cut, such as razor blades, knives or thumb tacks. Cutting can easily be done on parts of the body that are out of sight and the cuts can be hidden behind loose clothing. As a result, parents are often caught by surprise when they find out their child has been doing it.

Self-injury is not the same as trying to commit suicide. But those who cut may be more at risk for thinking about suicide. Therefore if your child is cutting, it is important to get a risk assessment by a professional who has experience with adolescents. This can be done by a medical doctor, therapist, school counselor, psychiatrist or social worker.

Adolescents who are cutting are often trying to manage, and decrease, intolerable feelings. Many teens report that cutting provides a sense of relief and helps them manage intense negative feelings. Researchers have identified a variety of motivations for cutting, such as relieving anxiety, releasing anger, avoiding unpleasant thoughts and feelings, managing guilt, loneliness and depression.

Therapy is the most common form of treatment for self-injury. A skilled therapist can help adolescents identify alternative coping skills and addresses the underlying issues that are triggering the behavior. Parents can take steps to reduce cutting by securing the sharp implements in the house and increasing the supervision. Finally it can be helpful to talk directly with your child about your concerns and desire for the behavior to stop. It is important to avoid shame, blame, anger or guilt. Let your child know that they can come talk with you if they have urges to cut.

If you would like to read more about self-harm I have provided links below.

What do we know about self-injury?
Cutting and self-injury
Warning signs and treatment

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