Why Do Teens Cut Themselves
Teens, Cutting, and Self-Harm: What Parents Need to Know Now
Kids are watching alarming YouTube videos on cutting and self-injury, which may encourage the behavior. Here's what parents need to know about spotting self-harm and helping teens cope.
By Lauren Gelman
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An alarming new study found that YouTube videos about self-injury and self-harm – depicting teens cutting themselves with razor blades, for example – have been viewed 2.3 million times, and many of them rated favorably (watch the example below). Most lacked warnings about the nature of the content or viewing restrictions, according toMedPage Today. Study authors worry that such videos may make self-harm behavior seem normal to children or even trigger them to attempt it.
So, what is self-injuring behavior, exactly — and could your child be hurting himself without your knowing?
Self-injuring behavior is more common than you might realize. Such acts, which include cutting, severe scratching, burning, poisoning, piercing skin with sharp objects, hitting, and biting, occur among 14 to 21 percent of children, teens, and young adults, previous research has found.
Common reasons why teens self-harm are to make themselves “feel alive” or to distract themselves from intense emotions such as anger, said Allen Josephson, MD, chief of the division of child, adolescent, and family psychiatry at the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Kentucky, in an Everyday Health article on teen cutting. A complex problem, cutting is often linked to low self-esteem and depression, as well as to other emotional health issues including bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and obsessive or compulsive behavior.
Though cutting and other self-harming behaviors can be dangerous, Josephson says they’re usually not related to suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts.
Could You Spot Warning Signs of Cutting Behavior in Your Teen?
Though obvious signals include physical proof — such as scars, cuts, and scratches — other less-noticeable symptoms include spending a lot of time alone, wearing long sleeves and pants, and claiming to have frequent accidents, according to MayoClinic.com.
Is Your Teen at Risk for Cutting?
According to MayoClinic.com, children who have friends who self-injure, who’ve endured sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, or who have certain personality traits (namely, those who are very self-critical, impulsive, or have poor problem-solving skills) are more likely to self-inure than others.
What If Your Teen Is Harming Herself?
The worst thing you can do is yell or criticize, say experts, which may just prompt your child to harm herself further. Make sure to tell him you love him no matter what, advises MayoClincic.com. Since self-harm is a complicated emotional and behavioral issue, your child will probably need professional help to treat and prevent the problem. If you’re concerned about your child and not sure how to seek help, start with his pediatrician or family doctor, according to MayoClinic.com.
Video: Understanding Adolescent Self-Injury
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