Self harming behavior is an experience that many teens can participate in for a variety of reasons. Although self harming behavior, also known as self injurious behavior, can be done by anyone at any age, it is commonly seen among teens. Self injury is intentional behavior to harm the body in some way. It can include cutting, biting, scratching, burning, and bruising the skin. However, self-harm can also include excessive exercise, pinching oneself, increased drinking, and pulling one’s hair.
Self harm can sometimes be confused with an attempt to commit suicide either by parents or mental health professionals. However, the danger in confusing the two is that a teen may not get the right treatment for their experience. For instance, a teen might self harm in order to relieve an intense emotional feeling. They might have a large amount of stored anger and self harm may be a way to express that anger. Teens might also be feeling very depressed or numb. Self harm might be a way for them to feel alive. For some teens, experiencing pain feels good and emotionally stimulating, especially when they feel empty inside. There is no one reason behind why a teen would harm themselves. However, it’s important to know that in most cases, self injury is not an attempt to commit suicide.
Suicide is the intentional act of ending one’s life. And there are many teens who do in fact commit suicide. In fact, suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens. However, as mentioned above, self harm is a way to relieve tension or feel alive; it is not a means to bring an end to one’s life. In fact, the primary difference between self harm and suicide is intent. When a teen intends to end their life, often because of depression or another form of mental illness, their goal is to bring their life to an end. However, the intent behind self harm is to find a way to feel better from intense inner experiences.
If a teen were participating in self injury, he or she would need to receive very different treatment than someone who was preparing to end their life. Planning suicide is often the result of hopelessness, depression, and worthlessness. Therefore, a teen who is preparing to end their life might need treatment for depression. He or she might need to take anti-depressants and/or see a psychotherapist. On the other hand, a teen who is self-harm is looking for a relief of feelings. This experience requires that a therapist uncover why a teen might be harming themselves. It might be for any of the reasons discussed above. However, it may or may not be a result of depression. Treating a teen who is harming themselves might include therapy in order find out more about why he or she feels the need to self-harm.
If your teen is demonstrating any type of self-harming behavior or if you suspect that he or she is depressed or planning suicide, contact a mental health provider today.