RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT FOR TEENS WHO SELF-INJURE
WHAT IS SELF-HARM?
RISK FACTORS OF SELF-HARM
While there are no specific identified causes of self-harm in teens, there do remain risk factors. These risks increase the likelihood of your child engaging in these self-injurious behaviors, including:
HISTORY OF SEXUAL ABUSE
About 50% of adolescents and teenagers who self-harm have experienced some sort of sexual abuse in their past.
WHY YOUR TEEN MAY BE SELF-HARMING
Other reasons teens use self-injurious behaviors include:
- Being the victim of bullying
- Increased stress levels
- A stressful domestic situation
- Loneliness or lack of social support
- Feeling emotionally disconnected from parents or caregivers
- Desire to “fit in” with a group of friends or peers who encourage self-injurious behaviors
- Feeling emotionally “dead” inside
- Feeling “invisible” to parents, caregivers, or peers
Regardless of why your teen engages in self-injurious behaviors, there is a general underlying outcome. Self-harm induces the “endorphin effect.” Cutting, burning, punching, or other self-harm behaviors quickly release endorphins into the bloodstream, thus providing a numbing and/or pleasurable sensation. This means your teen may be trying to numb difficult thoughts or unpleasant feelings, or they may get a “high” from the experience.
WARNING SIGNS OF SELF-HARM
- Frequent, unexplained injuries, such as cuts or burns
- Recurrent complaints of unintentional or accidental injury (e.g. “the cat scratched my arm again.”)
- Wearing concealing clothing consistently, even if the weather is warm (e.g. – long sleeves and pants in the summer months)
- Increased isolation or avoiding social settings (especially social situations that involve wearing less clothing (e.g. – a pool party)
- Poor functioning in daily activities, including work or school
- Difficulty managing emotions. For example, dealing with symptoms of depression or anxiety
HOW YOU CAN HELP
- Do encourage him or her to speak up about his or her self-harm.
- Do take the self-harm seriously. It is NOT about attention seeking.
- Do be someone who is a compassionate, nonjudgmental listener.
- Do encourage professional treatment.
- Do try to understand; don’t scold
Self-harming behavior is extremely harmful, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Education is vital in the push towards awareness, improved treatment options, and eradication of emotional distress in adolescents.