Did you know that approximately one teen out of every dozen has participated in self harm? While this category of behaviors includes attempts at suffocation, drowning, electrocution, and hanging, the self harm behaviors of burning and cutting are becoming increasingly common.
Among teens, cutting is considered acceptable. Since it’s also easily accessible and achievable, cutting can seem attractive to those dealing with the angst caused by a mixture of immaturity, hormonal shifts, and difficult emotions.
The Good News & Bad News: It’s Not (Necessarily) Going To End Badly
Those who cut aren’t necessarily suicidal; in fact, 90 out of every 100 cases of self-harm are resolved without outside intervention. And while cutting is not usually indicative of an attempt at suicide, the same teens who cut may be prone to suicidal thoughts. During the same period of time as cutting becomes common — starting at puberty, an increased incidence of self-inflicted deaths occur. A huge factor in suicidal deaths is having support and counsel to deal with the rogue thoughts and emotions that contribute to such deaths.
So on one hand, don’t panic, but on the other hand, make sure to respond by getting help for your teen. Even if cutting doesn’t lead to suicide, it can lead to shame and despair, which can find other negative outlets. It’s really not something you should ignore.
The Important Realization: It’s a Symptom, Not a Disease
Finding out your teen is involved in cutting can be quite frightening. But in your fear, make sure to find out facts. The worst thing you can do is to focus on the behavior of cutting. This behavior is simply a system of something going on under the surface, and if it stops, your teen will simply find another vehicle of expressing or suppressing the difficult emotions they’re facing.
You need to find out what your teen’s goals are in cutting. It could be a form of relief. Maybe you faced the same difficult emotions as a teen, but you never considered cutting. The main reason for the difference is the culture. Today’s teens are exposed to cutting through hearing it discussed at school or shown on TV. The power of suggestions is strong, especially if they hear that it offers relief.
The Path Toward Empathy: We All Have Ways of Anesthetizing Ourselves
While the behavior of cutting may be foreign to you, the emotions that prompt it from your teen are probably familiar. When you’re frustrated, fearful, or angry, what do you do? Maybe you go for a run or binge on Netflix. Maybe you go shopping, treat yourself to a nice dinner, or self-medicate with legal substances. What you achieve through your coping-mechanism-of-choice does the same thing your teen is trying to accomplish: take their mind off their problems.