Teen Self Harming

Have you noticed your teen exhibiting any of the following behaviors?

  • Shows signs of depression, isolation, or withdrawing from family and friends
  • Has scars or cuts on parts of body that are not explainable
  • Has admitted to cutting self or hitting self when in emotional distress
  • Does not have healthy coping mechanisms when under stress

Teen self harm can also include misuse or overdosing medications, burning self, picking or scratching at skin, or pulling out hair on head, eyebrows, or eyelashes. These behaviors can be very alarming for a parent or guardian and you may feel afraid that your teen will use more severe measures to self harm.

If my teenager is self harming, does this mean they are thinking of suicide?

While self harm is not a direct indication that your teenager is thinking of suicide, it is important to come up with a plan to keep your teen safe and investigate the underlying causes of this behavior. It is important to know that your teen is not self harming to take their life, but to distract from or ease emotional pain. The goal is to help your teen identify major stressors in their life that might be causing significant discomfort, anxiety, or anger.

What is motivating my teen to self harm?

To a parent it can appear like your teen is fine, while under the surface they are dealing with stress. If the cause of this behavior is not apparent, it can be hard for you to understand the motivation behind your teen’s self harming behavior. Different teens may self harm for different reasons, but common motivations for self harm include:

  • To reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, sadness, or loneliness
  • To direct anger towards something
  • To punish self or show self hatred or low self esteem
  • To visibly show they are in distress and need help
  • To alleviate emotionally numb feeling

How will a therapist help my teenager?

In order to help your teen overcome self harming behaviors, a therapist will get to know your teen and any possible factors contributing to their emotional distress. Our therapists are skilled in assisting with a variety of teen stressors such as difficulty at school, family conflict, relationship or friendship distress, and low self esteem and self confidence. No matter what is causing your teen to self harm, a therapist will help them replace harmful behaviors with healthy coping strategies. This means that a therapist can help your teenager identify painful emotions and learn to respond to these emotions through helpful thoughts and behaviors.