Girl with cut scars all over her body

Cutting and Self-Harm: Symptoms and Prevention

A 2014 study from the US National Library of Medicine (NLM) reports that nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) is most commonly found among adolescents and young adults. Many teenagers begin self-harm at the ages of 13 or 14.

Self-harm is in relation to hurting or injuring oneself through various means such as cutting, hitting, bruising, or breaking. This is an action taken by the teenager to themself. Unfortunately, this is not as uncommon as one might think.

Both males and females perform NSSI in almost equal ratios. However, cutting is more prominent to be performed by females. An estimated 1 in 200 girls between the ages of 13 and 19 cut themselves. Self-injury and suicide rates have, unfortunately, been increasing over the past decade.

NSSI is extremely dangerous and tends to lead to other life-threatening issues. If not treated, NSSI tendencies have been found to continue into adult years.

Families that have a teenager who is performing NSSI should seek immediate professional help if the behavioral condition is severe. Residential treatment centers are built to help families regain their connection and build a healthier state of mind for the afflicted teenager. But, in case of an emergency, contact the Crisis Helpline for immediate attention.

Why Do Teens Cut Themselves?

Cutting and other self-induced injuries are performed for a multitude of reasons. While your child may look like they are fine or happy, they could be very distraught inside in dealing with their environment and who they are.

We have interviewed teenagers in asking what their reasons were for cutting themselves, the answers might shock most parents.

  1. Cutting is contagious. You hear or see someone else who is struggling and have used cutting as an option to break away from the real world.
  2. Cutting is sacred and kept in private, not typically performed with others.
  3. It feels like an addiction. Similar to drugs, the need to cut can become part of your daily ritual.
  4. Cutting because of no feeling or feeling too much. Past events that have caused trauma can lead to deep thinking which turns into emotions that are difficult to control.
  5. Cutting can be performed to counteract intense negative emotions.
  6. Cutting and self-harm can be a way to direct self-punishment.
  7. Cutting and self-harm can be used to show emotional distress in a physical form.

Cutting and other forms of self-injuries are mainly performed to deal with negative emotions. Many children who are dealing with self-identity issues use self-injury to alleviate the negative thoughts running through their minds.

Self-injury can lead to other forms of negative physical behaviors, such as suicide. Do not think that it is somehow a phase or will just “pass with time”. Be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of cutting and self-harm. This is a serious matter in the behavior and life of your child. If they are showing signs of self-harm, they need help to get them back on the road to a healthy life.

Signs and Symptoms of Cutting and Self-Harm

If your child is physically harming themselves through cutting or another form of self-injury, look for these signs.

  1. Skin abrasions from sharp objects, skin picking, or scratching.
  2. Bruising or swelling on skin.
  3. Scars on skin.
  4. Patterns on your child’s skin from marks, typically close to each other.
  5. Interests in self-harm with research and talking about self-inflicted pain.
  6. Desire to cover up skin such as arms and legs.
  7. Isolating themselves to their room, spending less time with friends and family members.
  8. Change in mood and drastic emotional behaviors.
  9. Noticeable cutting objects found in their room or baggage.
  10. Statements of loneliness, helplessness, and feeling worthless.

How to Prevent Cutting and Self-Harm

It can be difficult to understand why your child is hurting themself. There are a great many reasons as to the “why”, but knowing that your child is performing self-harm means you can do something about it.

To prevent your child from continuing to hurt themself, the best thing to do is address it. Start a conversation with them with compassion and love, not anger. The last thing you want to do is shut them out or make them feel bad for what they are doing. As a parent you want your child to be happy and living a fulfilling life, and the best way to get them back on track is to show them that you care.

You may also find a therapist to work with your child to address their emotions and behavioral tendencies. Therapists and counselors do a great job of understanding your child’s situation and trying to find a solution to help them overcome their emotions. At Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center for Troubled Teens, we are here to help your teen find themself. We have a talented and experienced staff of mental health professionals and counselors with various types of therapies.


Speak with us today if you’re noticing your child’s behaviors are physically or mentally harmful to themselves or others.

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