What is Self Harm and How Do I Identify it in My Teen?

Self-harm is the practice of purposefully injuring or destroying a part of your own body. It can take many forms, including cutting, burning or picking at skin, hair pulling, head banging, hitting or bone breaking. These acts are often done privately, with the results then hidden under clothing out of guilt and shame.  A teen might engage in self-harm in an effort to counter negative feelings, punish themselves or to feel physical pain when emotions are numbed. They may have difficulty expressing their feelings and instead choose to injure themselves.

selfImage Linzi

Self-injury is usually indicative of a mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or bipolar disorder. If you know that your teen struggles with one of these conditions, particularly with recovery and expression, you should be looking out for signs of self-harm.

Signs of Self Harm Include:

  • Wearing long sleeves in warm weather
  • Wearing thick wristbands (to hide wrist cutting injuries)
  • Unexplained marks or bruises on their body
  • Elusive behavior
  • Spending long periods of time alone and isolated
  • Items that can be used for cutting are missing (ie: razors)

If you recognize any of these signs or symptoms of self-injury, encourage your teen to speak with a mental health professional immediately, as they may need additional treatment and support.

Feature image Sharon & Nikki McCutcheon