Why Are Teens Today Cutting?

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Are Teens Under Too Much Pressure?

BY DR SARAH HUGHES

Are we putting too much pressure on teenagers today?  As adults with work stress, large mortgages, and other “real” problems it can be easy to trivialise the stressors our teens face, but there are many.  There’s pressure to do well at school, sports, and other extracurricular activities, the stress of fickle and cliquey peer groups, opportunities for bullying outside school hours (thanks to the misuse of social media), and pressure to look like digitally enhanced images in magazines just to name a few.

Are teens today coping or cutting?

Are teens today coping or cutting?

Adolescence has always been a challenging time, but teens today are battered with more stressors than ever before.  Are they coping?

Stats on self-harm would suggest no.  As many as 1 in 12 adolescents between 14 and 19 years of age are hurting themselves.  True, some teens self-harm for attention, but these teens are in the minority.  Most teens self-harm because they struggle to cope with intense emotions.  They become overwhelmed by their distress and use self-harm to escape.

Few teens are forthcoming in disclosing their self-harm to parents.  Some will discuss it with their peers, others will cut in secret.  Most teens use razors or other sharp objects to cut their wrists, but others cut on more hidden body parts, like their stomach or upper thigh.

If you’re concerned that your child is cutting try not to panic.  Think about what’s going on in their life that might be causing them to self-harm because understanding this is key.  When you discover that your child is hurting themselves it can be tempting to go into “micromanagement mode” to ensure their safety and reduce your own anxiety, but over-reacting can escalate your child’s distress and potentially also their self-harm.

It’s difficult, but finding the right balance between intervening to prevent self-harm and allowing your child to retain their privacy and independence is key.  There will be times when you will need to prioritise your child’s safety over and above their privacy, but it’s equally important to know when to restore this balance.

For more tips on how to help teens who are cutting, click here

Dr. Sarah Hughes is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Think Clinical Psychologists. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, and adults, and specialises in anxiety, depression, postnatal depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and challenging behaviour.


 

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