Menu Close

Recognizing Self-Harm in Teens

teenager woman leaning against wall with head in her hands thinking about recognizing self harm in teens

Self-harm refers to the act of hurting or injuring oneself on purpose. Also referred to as self-injury, self-harming behavior is greatly misunderstood among the general public. Individuals who self-harm are neither suicidal nor attention-seeking. Rather, they have adopted self-harm as a maladaptive way of managing overwhelming thoughts and emotions that they cannot adequately express. Unfortunately, self-harm is on the rise among teens, who are the most likely to engage in these behaviors. A psychotherapy program for teens can address the underlying issues that contribute to self-harm.

Imagine Nampa was born out of the recognition of the growing need for accessible, comprehensive mental health services for Idaho teens. We are dedicated to providing quality outpatient treatment for teens ages 12-17 with behavioral and mental health disorders. Our specialized psychotherapy programs are designed to support the entire family. If your teen is engaging in self-harm, we are here to help. Reach out online or call us at 888.503.4604.

What Are the Signs of Self-Harm?

While cutting is the most common form of self-harm, it can also include head-banging, hitting, branding, burning, skin picking, and pulling out hair. Teens use self-harm to cope with severe stress or emotional anguish or to attempt to feel something because they otherwise feel numb or emotionally disconnected. Teens who self-harm often report that it gives them a sense of control over their lives, particularly when they’ve experienced trauma.

Teens who engage in self-harm become stuck in a complex cycle they are unsure how to break. The temporary relief they feel from self-harming is quickly replaced with feelings of guilt and shame that contribute to more emotional pain, which results in more self-harm. The stigma associated with self-harm increases the reluctance to ask for help.

If you suspect your teen is self-harming, consider these signs:

  • Frequent, unexplained injuries and excuses for their causes
  • Wearing long sleeves and pants even in hot weather
  • Withdrawing from friends and family or self-isolating at events
  • Significant emotional instability
  • Struggling with interpersonal relationships at home and in school
  • Persistent expressions of low self-esteem, low self-worth, hopelessness, and helplessness
  • Unpredictable, impulsive behavior

Teens who practice self-harm are experiencing significant mental health issues and are more likely to struggle with substance abuse or addiction. Parents should validate their teens’ pain without validating their self-harming behavior. Self-harming is a complex issue that requires professional interventions.

What Is the Effect of Bullying on Teen Self-Harm?

Unfortunately, bullying remains common, despite efforts to reduce it. Further, cyberbullying has taken bullying to another level and made it more pervasive and difficult to escape. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and

  • One of every five teens between the ages of 12-18 has experienced bullying
  • Fewer than half of teens who experience bullying report it
  • Over 10% of high school dropouts are the result of persistent bullying
  • Over 70% of teens say that bullying is a problem in their school
  • Each month, over 280,000 U.S. high school students are physically assaulted
  • Approximately 160,000 teens between 12-18 miss school daily because of bullying
  • Teens are less likely to report bullying as they get older

Bullying has both short-term and long-term consequences. Frequently, teens who are targeted by bullies struggle with anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts long after the bullying has ended. Bullied teens experience negative physical, emotional, academic, social, and mental health issues. Research shows that being bullied is associated with an increased risk for self-harm.

Reach Out to Imagine Nampa for Help with Teen Self-Harm

Self-harm is a complex issue, and treatment for self-harm takes time and hard work. Self-harming is not a mental health diagnosis but a symptom of an underlying problem that requires professional intervention. Bullying is a common trigger for self-harm among teens.

At Imagine Nampa, we understand that having a teen who self-harms is confusing, upsetting, and scary. Through our comprehensive mental health treatment programs, we can help your teen address the root causes of self-harming behaviors. Because we know your teen’s behavioral and mental health issues do not occur in a vacuum, our programs are designed to support your entire family. Reach out to us online or call 888.503.4604 to learn more.