Self Harm


Self Harm

Self-harm is a growing trend in adolescents. Cutting and overdosing on medications are the most common forms of self-harm in teens, but other forms of self-harm include:

  • Self-inflicted burns
  • Self-directed aggression (strangling, head banging)
  • Swallowing sharp objects
  • Risky behaviour (binge drinking, unprotected sex, drug use)
  • Dietary restriction

Why Do Teens Self-Harm?

Most teens use self-harm to cope with intense and distressing emotions. The physical pain caused by the self-harm offers a temporary relief from high anxiety and other overwhelming emotions. Teens might also self-harm:

  • Because they believe they’re inherently bad or worthless and deserve to be punished
  • To feel more in control
  • To communicate their distress to others in an attempt to elicit empathy and understanding (others typically respond with anger and withdraw which triggers further distress)
  • To influence the behaviour of others (e.g. “If you break up with me I’ll hurt myself”)

Do Teens Cut Themselves For Attention?

While most teens cut to regulate their emotions, some teens may cut to fit in with their peers or because they believe cutting makes them cool and interesting. It’s easy to take this type of cutting less seriously, but if a teens self-harm is dismissed by others this may cause a deliberate escalation in symptoms to prove a point.

Warning Signs of Teen Self-Harm

Most teens will keep their self-harm a secret and may deny that they’re self-harming when directly asked. If you’re concerned, warning signs to look out for include:

  • Unexplained cuts, wounds, or scars
  • Blood stains on sheets or tissues
  • Empty pill packets
  • Hidden sharp objects
  • Deliberate attempts to cover up certain body parts
  • Wearing long sleeved tops in hot weather
  • Disappearing for long periods of time when distressed

Click here for more information about teen self-harm including what you can do to keep your child safe and how to help your teen cope with peer self-harm.