The teen brain is still growing. Because of this, the part of the brain that governs reason and logic hasn’t quite developed yet. As a result, teens tend to be emotional, impulsive, creative, and explorative. They are in a prime stage in their life, perfect for completing the one psychological task teens need to complete: discovering their unique sense of self and identity.
However, with the change and growth that comes with adolescence, teens can have a hard time at this stage of life. They might be more sensitive to what others say or do. They might exhibit symptoms of depression and/or anxiety from time to time. And they might resort to hurting themselves if the emotions they experience are too intense for them. One way that teens might hurt themselves, among many, is cutting their wrists with a razor or sharp knife. Cutting, when it’s a form of self-harm, is often not an attempt to commit suicide, but instead, a means to relieve stress, release the pressure of intense emotions, feel alive again when a teen is depressed, or express anger.
When a teen is cutting on a regular basis, he or she may be doing it for one of the above reasons. Self harm is a behavior that occurs for people at any age. Although, it can be more prevalent among teens. Self-harm is injurious behavior towards one’s own body, typically without the intention of committing suicide, as mentioned above. It can include cutting, biting, scratching, burning, and bruising the skin. However, self-harm can also include excessive exercise, pinching oneself, increased drinking, sabotaging good relationships, staying with others who do not treat you well, pulling one’s hair, mixing medication with alcohol and other drugs. There are many variations of ways to harm oneself.
When parents suspect that a teen is cutting they might notice the following signs:
- Teens are wearing long sleeves even when it’s warm.
- There may be blood stains on bed sheets.
- Teens may be spending significant periods of time alone in their room.
- Teens may be spending time with new friends or friends you don’t know (who may be influencing them to cut or self harm in other ways.)
- Teens may be experiencing a stressful time in their life, or just went through a very stressful period.
- Teens not opening up about how they are feeling.
Of course, not all of these signs are indicative of cutting. However, if parents have a suspicion as well as see one or more of the above signs, then a teen may be cutting or participating in self-harming behavior.
If a parent or friend of a teen is concerned about a teen, it’s important to call a mental health provider. A professional in the mental health field can help a teen by teaching them new coping tools for intense emotions as well as provide an opportunity to discuss what’s going on in their life. Although a teen usually does not cut themselves with the intent to commit suicide, cutting is still dangerous and puts a teen’s life at risk. Calling a mental health professional may in fact save a teen’s life.