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Recognizing Self-Harm in Teens

a teen is more introverted and secretive with closed off body posturing and may be self harming

Every year, significant numbers of teens purposefully injure themselves without any clear suicidal intent. This behavior is commonly known as self-harm. Is self-harm a major concern? In some cases, yes. For this reason, you should not overlook or ignore signs that your teenager may be engaged in intentional harm. A variety of treatments can help stop self-harm in teens. One of the main options used to achieve this goal is dialectical behavior therapy or DBT. Contact Imagine Spokane at 888.384.3143 for more information. We can help.

Forms of Self-Harm in Teens

Anyone can engage in self-harm, regardless of their age. However, the chances of doing so are substantially higher in teenagers and young adults. There are many different potential forms of self-harming behavior. The list of behaviors you may notice in your child includes:

  • Cutting the skin in various parts of the body with a knife or other sharp object
  • Injuring the skin through repeated scratching
  • Punching solid objects or hitting themselves
  • Bruising themselves
  • Pulling out their hair
  • Burning themselves with items such as a lighter, match, or cigarette
  • Purposefully breaking a bone

Two of the most common locations for self-harm are the arms and thighs. However, your teen may also choose other body areas.

Is Self-Harm a Sign of Depression?

Self-harm is a kind of behavior, not a mental illness. However, it can be a sign of depression or other mental health conditions. Teens who self-harm may also have a range of other, specific motivations.

For example, some teens harm themselves as a way to manage or ease distressing emotions. Additional common motivations include exerting a sense of self-control and avoidance of unpleasant memories. They also include a desire to punish themselves or escape a sense of emotional numbness or emptiness. In addition, self-harm can function as a cry for help. Be aware that the presence of this behavior may indicate an increased risk for suicidal thoughts and actions.

Signs of Self-Harm in Teens

You may not always be able to tell if your teenager is engaging in self-harm. However, in many cases, you may notice certain telltale signs. Common examples of these signs include:

  • Recurring cuts or bruises that have no obvious explanation
  • Random or patterned scarring of the skin
  • Excuses or lies designed to explain why these cuts, bruises, or scars are present
  • The wearing of long pants or long-sleeved shirts in inappropriate weather
  • The unexplained presence of knives, razor blades, or similar sharp objects

You may also notice certain emotions or behaviors that can occur alongside a pattern of self-harm. For example, your teen may talk about feeling hopeless or helpless. They may also start acting in unpredictable or impulsive ways.

Treatment for Self-Harming Behaviors

Several kinds of therapy can help break a pattern of self-harm. In dialectical behavior therapy, your teen learns how to accept unpleasant emotional states without reacting in negative ways. They also learn how to regulate their emotions and gain a better sense of self-control.

Your teen’s treatment plan may include another option called cognitive-behavioral therapy. A third potential treatment option is something called psychodynamic therapy. The specific best choice of therapy varies from person to person.

Learn More About the Signs of Self-Harm in Teens at Imagine Spokane

Are you worried that your teen may be involved in some form of self-harm? Contact the adolescent mental health experts at Imagine Spokane. We can help you identify likely indicators of self-harm. We can also help you determine if your teen is affected by an underlying mental health condition.

Does your child need treatment for a mental health issue accompanied by self-harm? Imagine Spokane features customized treatment plans that support an effective return to well-being. For more information, just call us today at 888.384.3143. We’re also available through our online contact form.