Self-Harm in Teens and Tweens

Cutting, burning, and hitting are among the more common forms of self harm.

Seek help sooner to stop problems from escalating.

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.