Parents: Try to Understand Teens Who Self Harm Not Punish Them


If you’re a parent and you find out that your teen is scratching, scraping, poking, burning, or cutting themselves, you’re probably terrified. Out of fear, you might demand your teen to stop or you might remove their privileges in order to make them put an end to it. However, because teens who self harm actually benefit (albeit in unhealthy way) from their self harm, punishing them won’t always work.  This article will explain why it’s better to understand what your self-harming teen may be going through rather than punishing them for their behavior.


Most often, self harm is means to feel better. Some parents might fear that their teen is attempting suicide. However, this is often not the case. Instead, self-harm is injurious behavior towards one’s own body, typically without the intention of committing suicide. 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, spending time with those who are a bad influence, pulling one’s hair, mixing medication with alcohol and other drugs. There are many variations of ways to harm oneself. Yet, whatever the behavior, there is an intention to do harm to oneself.


Self harm is commonly known to be a behavior among teens. However, this behavior can be found among people of any age. It can be a symptom of a mental illness. For instance, if someone experiences depression, psychosis, or borderline personality disorder, then self-harm might be a symptom. With teens, it can begin when they discover that by hurting themselves they can bring their stress, emotional pain, or fear to a more manageable level. Some teens who have experienced trauma and who tend to be disassociated from their body might turn to self harm as a means to feel themselves again. For some teens, self-harm can be a way to cope with intense emotions, to calm and soothe themselves, or to release pent up anger.


Because there are multiple reasons why a teen might engage in self-injury, a parent should seek to understand what their child is going through. In order to best help your teen, don’t punish them. It might only make their emotional pain worse. You might share your concerns and fears with them. However, it should be noted that even if the tools for self harm were removed (such as razors, scissors, or drugs), the self injurious behavior may not stop. Even without the means, a teen’s behavior and the need for the behavior might continue to exist. For this reason, it’s best to talk to a teen to get at the underlying reason for their behavior.


However, in some cases, it might be best to get support for a teen who is self harming. A therapist or psychologist can tenderly support an adolescent in getting in touch with the reason behind their behavior. Proper mental health care can also provide treatment for any underlying mental illnesses, if there are any. However, it’s common for a self-harming teen to have a diagnosis of anxiety, PTSD, depression, or ADHD. Obtaining a diagnosis can be an important step to treating self-harm in teens. The best way to care for a teen who is exhibiting self-harming behavior is to seek the professional service of a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.