Finding out that your teen is self-harming can be frightening. Parents may feel confused and overwhelmed by the discovery. If your teen is self-harming, know that help is available. Self-harm is a dangerous but treatable compulsion. Treatment involves understanding the teenager and investigating their relationship with their self-harming behavior.
Self-harm is also known as Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI). Unfortunately, it is common among teenagers. It affects more girls than boys, but boys are still at risk. Parents, siblings, and friends often have a hard time understanding the reasons for self-harm. It seems counter-intuitive. Many people even experience discomfort at the idea.
The reasons for self-harm are complex. They often have their roots in other mental health issues. Though it can be hard to understand, it is important to practice compassion with a self-harming teen. They are facing difficult and overwhelming emotions. Injuring oneself can feel like the only possible coping mechanism to deal with these feelings.
Of course, there are healthier ways to deal with our feelings. Still, when a person self-harms, they have likely been emotionally triggered and are experiencing a lot of stress. Patience and understanding are essential if we want to help.
Why Do People Self-Harm?
Self-harm is not a suicide attempt. Sometimes it can be a means of avoiding a suicide attempt. The reasons why people self-harm vary between individuals. It often comes down to a need to cope with difficult emotions, such as shame, guilt, or self-loathing.
The self-harming teen has learned that injury will relieve the overwhelming feelings caused by their distress. We see the same process in those who abuse substances or engage in other high-risk behavior. These individuals struggle with feelings or traumatic memories that are too much to deal with at once.
These feelings and memories can be provoked or triggered by the environment. When triggered, the person is compelled to escape from them. Common reasons for self-harming behavior include:
- To ease anxiety
- To reduce stress
- To mask or avoid difficult emotions
- To alleviate unresolved feelings (anger, resentment)
- To cope with emptiness and numbness
The issue is that any relief gained is temporary. The feelings and emotions that caused the behavior will soon return. Self-harm then becomes dangerous. Teens might harm themselves in more extreme ways to deal with the severity of their feelings.
Types of Self-Harm
People harm or injure themselves in different ways. Whichever method a person chooses, the consequences can be dangerous. There is always a risk that a person will go too far and seriously injure themselves. In some cases, a person can cause a fatal injury,
One of the most common types of self-harm is cutting. Teens who cut use razor blades, knives, or broken glass to cut their skin. Common ways people self-harm include:
- Hitting oneself
- Burning the skin with a flame, cigarette, or other hot objects
- Prescription drug overdose
- Pulling out head and body hair to hurt oneself
- Inserting objects into the skin
As mentioned, self-harm is often committed to escape from distressing feelings or mask difficult emotions. Unless the root of these emotional issues is resolved, the problem will continue. The emotions and feelings a teen wants to escape from must be addressed by a professional. If a teen continues to harm themselves, they are at risk of serious injury and even death.
Cutting can lead to significant blood loss. Prescription drug overdose can be fatal. Burning oneself can lead to infection if the wound is not managed correctly.
Recovery Is Possible - Change Your Life Today
Causes of Self-Harm
Self-harm is especially common among teenagers. Self-injurious behavior usually begins in adolescence. If left unresolved, it can develop into more serious, harmful behaviors. Without appropriate treatment, a self-harming adolescent is also at greater danger of using substances. This can lead to addiction. Substance use, like self-harm, offers temporary relief from one’s distress.
Self-harm can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or social status. There are a variety of causes of this compulsion. Teens who struggle with low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression are at a greater risk of self-harm than those who do not struggle with the same issues.
The following are some common risk factors for self-harm or Non-Suicidal Self Injury.
- Childhood trauma (physical, sexual, verbal abuse)
- Childhood neglect
- Bullying at home or in school
- Unprocessed grief
- Poor emotional regulation
- Low self-esteem
- Harsh self-criticism
- Mental illness
Treatment Options for Self-Harming Teenagers
Self-harm, or self-injury, is a maladaptive coping mechanism. In the face of emotional distress, harming oneself can feel like the only means of escape. Fortunately, there are several approaches to treatment for those who self-harm.
The type of treatment used will depend on personal factors. Mental health professionals assess clients before treatment. This helps them better understand clients’ needs, issues, and lifestyle.
Treatment for Self-Harm at NYCFL
We offer comprehensive mental health treatment for adolescents here at the New York Center for Living. We boast a team of trained mental health professionals who specialize in adolescent mental health recovery. Our counselors, therapists, and medical support staff are well-equipped to help adolescent clients who self-harm. These expert professionals can support recovery from this dangerous coping method and its root causes.
At NYCFL, clients are offered:
Talk-based psychotherapies help clients come to terms with their emotions and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Trained therapists sit with clients and attune to their needs and emotions. Clients are given space to talk with compassion and complete non-judgment.
There are two main types of psychotherapy used to help those who self-harm. The first is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is used in a variety of treatment approaches. It helps clients by increasing their understanding of their thoughts and behavior. CBT focuses on problem-solving. It promotes healthier, effective coping methods in clients.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is another form of psychotherapy available at NYCFL. DBT promotes acceptance and balance in clients. It helps clients attain better mental health by guiding them towards positive change.
There are often underlying issues involved in a person’s self-injurious behavior. Teens may be struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions associated with their self-harm. Medication can be prescribed to help manage these conditions. With medical assistance, the symptoms of these can be reduced. This promotes greater engagement in therapy and reduces the impulse to self-harm.
Support and encouragement are key to good mental health. At NYCFL, clients are supported by trained therapists, counselors, and peers in recovery. We offer a wide range of holistic therapies here at the center. Yoga, mediation, group therapy, family therapy, arts-based therapies, music therapy, and outdoor activities are all part of the programs we provide. These can help clients struggling with mental health issues form a positive world outlook. The support felt by engaging in these therapies lets clients know that they are not alone in their struggle.
Mental Health Recovery Support at NYCFL
Good mental health is key to living a happy and healthy life. When adolescents struggle with poor mental health, the earlier help is sought, the better. Treatment programs can help adolescents recover their mental health and make healthy choices moving forward. If your teen is struggling with poor mental health, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Help is available at NYCFL.
According to the US National Institute of Mental Health, one in three people aged between 13 and 18 have an anxiety...
Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research…
Let’s get real - eating disorders can affect anyone, anywhere. This National Eating Disorders Awareness Week...
What is an Intervention? According to Al Anon, an intervention is a deliberate process designed to help another person...