Teen self-harm has become a commonplace among young Americans as they struggle to deal with peer pressure, anxiety, depression, and other emotional changes in their lives. While children can begin these acts at a fairly early age, most start in during or after puberty. If you are worried that your child may be committing self-harm, read on to learn the warning signs of self-injury.
Types Of Self-Harm
In order to notice the signs of self-harm, you need to know what your teen may be doing to his or her body. There are several types of self-injury your child may use to cope with emotions. The most common self-injuries include:
- Carving The Skin With A Dull Object
- Punching Or Slapping
Most of these acts are designed to leave a mark on the body, but the marks may be hidden by clothing, accessories, or adjusted body movements. The type of self-harm your child uses will depend on the reasons for self-injury, but cutting is the most common activity to look for.
Obvious Signs: Noticeable Marks On The Skin
The most obvious sign your child is self-harming is visible cuts, burn holes, scratches, or bruises on the skin. If your teen is cutting in an attempt to get attention, he or she may put the cuts in a visible place on his or her wrist or arm. This is not to say that all teens who cut visibly do so for attention.
Your teen may blame the cuts or bruises on a bully or an accident at school. Assess if the marks look deliberate or haphazard. It’s not always easy to tell if the marks are intentional, but it’s worth investigating before you pass them off as accidents.
Emotional Withdrawal And Personal Isolation
Is your once social butterfly now spending most of her time in her room? Emotional withdrawal is often associated with self-harm because teens feel ashamed of themselves or their behaviors. Depression, anxiety, and a general disconnection with the rest of the world are not always caused by “teenage mood swings.” Your child may be struggling with an area of life and using self-harm as a coping mechanism.
Even if your child is not committing self-injury, you should seek help if he or she shows signs of depression. Working with a teen counselor will help your child get through this difficult time in life.
Wearing Clothing That Hides Certain Body Parts
If your teen is wearing long sleeves in the middle of the summer, he or she may be hiding marks on his or her arms. This is similar to a child wearing a turtle neck to cover a hickey or sunglasses to cover a black eye. Your teen may also begin to accessorize more in an attempt to cover marks on the body. This may be nothing more than a change of taste, but your child’s “new style” could also be a cover-up for a much bigger issue going on in his or her life.
Knives, Razor Blades, And Other Evidence
You may find knives or razor blades in your bathroom that were not there before, or you may notice knives missing from your kitchen. If your child is using burning for self-injury, you may find a lighter or matches in his or her room that was not in your home before. The bathroom and the bedroom are the two most common places for teens to self-harm because of the privacy these spaces provide. Look for evidence there while you observe changes in your child’s behaviors.
Blood On The Floor
Your child will try to clean up well after self-harming. This is another reason why the bathroom is a preferred spot for cutting. If blood gets on the floor, it is easy to clean up. Nevertheless, your teen may forget to clean one area or simply not notice it when he or she leaves the room. If you see blood in your house without explanation, you may need to have a discussion with your child.
What To Do If You Notice Signs Of Self-Harm
If you suspect that your child is committing self-harm, talk to your child about your concerns. Come into the discussion from a place of compassion – not anger or shock. You may be upset inside, but you cannot let your child see that. He or she needs to know that you care about what’s going on and you want to help. If the child feels like he or she has disappointed you, you will only make the problem worse.
Once you and your teen talked about what is going on, you can work with a teen counselor to tackle the root emotions that lead to self-harm in the first place. Your teen will have a chance to work with the counselor in a private setting to openly discuss matters he or she may not share with you. You will also have a chance to sit in with some of the counseling sessions so you can gain insight into your child’s life. Your counselor or therapist will give you the tools you need to move on to a better state of mental health.