Cutting, burning, and hitting are among the more common forms of self harm.
Some parents are naturally alarmed by self-harm behavior. Though it is important to recognize that self-harm is a serious concern, it is also important to remember that treatment can help your child. My advice is to seek therapy right away with a professional if your child is engaged in self-harm.
For some, it might be tempting to chalk off self-harm as attention-seeking behavior, or merely as a phase. That line of thought is misguided.
What psychologists know about self-harm:
- It is a way to calm down and to deal with unbearable emotions
- It is a predictor of later suicide attempts, though it is NOT in itself an attempt to end life now (read more on suicide prevention)
- It can happen to kids who do well in school, or are high-achievers (see high-functioning depression)
- If someone in your child’s circle is engaged in self-harm behavior, it increases your child’s susceptibility to it
To motivate/encourage your child to seek treatment, you can try communicating your concern in the following way (you get the gist, but say it in your own way):
“I am aware of your self-harm behavior. I think you do this because it is helping you in some way. I am concerned, and I think there are other ways to solve your problem that doesn’t involve hurting yourself. I would like you to see someone so that you can get some help.”
**If you are experiencing resistance in your child regarding treatment, contact me.
Learn more why teens cut, self-harm in teens, and what you as parents can do about it.
Learn more about borderline personality disorder.