Self harm describes behavior of cutting or otherwise injuring oneself as a means of dealing with emotional pain.

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About Self Harm

self harmSelf harm is a condition where an adolescent causes injury to himself or herself. One of the most common forms of self-injury is cutting, where the young person uses razors or other sharp objects to cause harm. Other forms include burning, scratching, head banging, punching things, or preventing wounds from healing.  Teens may harm themselves for many reasons. They may be attempting to express emotional pain, distract themselves from painful emotions, or exert control over something. Self harm is typically not a suicide attempt. More often, the teen uses self harm as a mechanism to deal with emotional pain. This condition is more typically found in adolescent girls, although some boys have also been known to exhibit this behavior.

Self harm poses obvious dangers physically for the teen, who puts herself or himself at risk for serious infection and for complications arising from excessive blood loss. More significantly, self harm behaviors may indicate first that the teen is experiencing emotional distress and second that the teen has no healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with these intense emotions. Rarely do teens use self injury as a ploy to gain attention. Rather, most teens cut or injure themselves in secret, hiding both the evidence of their behavior and the emotions causing it.

Adolescents dealing with self-harm behaviors need help to learn to express and cope with their powerful emotions in more constructive ways. Parents can attempt to open lines of communication with their teen, as it is important for the teen to confide in someone she trusts about her painful emotions, whether that person is a parent or someone else. Typically, counseling or therapy is used to help the teen learn to recognize the emotions that trigger the self harm and to teach healthier responses. In some cases, anti-depressants or mood stabilizers may be used to even out emotions for a time to make therapy more effective.

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