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Understanding Adolescent & Teen Self-Harm and the Pathways to Healing

Seeing a loved one, especially a child, struggle with self-harm can be scary and confusing. As parents, family members, friends, or caregivers, it’s natural to feel a rush of emotions and a desperate desire to help.

Self-harm is a complex issue. It’s crucial to approach the topic with sensitivity and empathy. Understanding the reasons behind self-harm and recognizing its signs are the initial steps for helping your loved one.

We’re here to guide you through understanding self-harm, gain insight into its causes, signs for concern, and how you can help.

What is Self-Harm?

Self-harm, also known as self-injury, is when someone purposely hurts their own body. It’s a way some people cope with intense emotional pain.

Examples include cutting or burning the skin, scratching to break the skin, or hitting themselves.

It’s important to understand that self-harm isn’t a failed attempt at suicide. While it can signal serious distress, it’s often a way for someone to take control of their emotional pain, not end their life.

What Can Cause Adolescents to Self-Harm?

Teen years can be a tough time. With so much change, some teens find it hard to cope. Factors that can lead to self-harm in adolescents include:

  • Intense emotions: Feelings can be hard to handle. Anger, sadness, or emptiness can overwhelm a teen. They may feel like self-harm might provide temporary relief.
  • Life stress: Loss of a loved one, problems or stressful situations at home, school, with friends, can spark self-harming behaviors.
  • Mental health issues: Conditions like depression, anxiety, or borderline personality disorder may increase the likelihood of self-harm.

It’s crucial to remember that everyone’s different. Not all teens living with these situations self-harm. At the same time, some who self-harm might not have any of these.

Signs of Self-Harming

Watch for these signs if you’re worried a teen in your life is self-harming:

Physical signs:

  • Unexplained wounds or scars, often on the wrists, arms, thighs, or chest.
  • Frequent “accidents” that cause physical injury.
  • Wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather.

Behavioral and emotional signs:

  • Spending long periods of time alone.
  • Emotional instability, mood changes, or outbursts.
  • Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy.

Self-harm is a serious issue. But it’s important to respond with compassion and understanding if you notice these signs in a young person’s life.

What Parents Can Do to Help

Knowing your child is self-harming can be painful and scary. You may feel lost, not knowing what to do. But your support can make a big difference in their road to recovery.

Start a conversation

Talk to your child. It might be hard, but don’t let fear stop you. Speak with love and patience, avoiding anger and frustration during the conversation. Let them know you care and are there to help.

Listen without judgment

Listening is often more important than speaking in these scenarios. Show your child their feelings matter. Let them express their emotions.

Show empathy

Your child needs to feel understood. Empathy can help build a bridge of trust. When you show them care, they’ll feel more comfortable speaking openly with you.

Provide a safe space

Home should be a haven. Make it a space where your child feels safe to share their feelings. Allow them to share their thoughts and feelings.

Seek professional help

Self-harm is serious. You don’t have to face it alone. Reach out to professionals who can guide you.

Treatment Options for Self-Harm

There are several treatment options for self-harm, all aimed at helping your child find healthier ways to cope with emotional pain. A few of these options include:

  • Therapy: Counseling or psychotherapy can be an effective treatment. Therapists can help your child understand the root cause of their self-harm and teach them new coping strategies.
  • Medication: In some cases, medication might be recommended. This is often in combination with therapy.
  • Inpatient treatment: In some cases, hospitalization might be necessary. This provides a safe environment for your child while they begin recovery.
  • Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) or Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP): These outpatient programs provide structured treatment while allowing your child to live at home.

Get Care for Someone Who is Self-Harming

If your child is self-harming, it’s crucial to remember that you’re not alone in this process. It’s never too soon to seek help, and it’s never too late for healing to begin.

At NCBHS, we understand how hard it can be to face adolescent self-harm. Our team of professionals is committed to providing compassionate, effective care for your child and support for your family. Call us today at 877-717-0085, and let us guide you on the path to healing.

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