Self-Harm


Self-Harming Behaviour in Adolescents

Self-harming behaviour in adolescents creates feelings of panic and guilt in parents when they discover signs of their children cutting, stabbing or burning themselves. However, it does not mean that your adolescent will attempt suicide, although it does point to a highly distressed emotional state and, if ignored, may lead to suicidal thoughts in the future.

Although fairly uncommon before puberty, self-harm can become quite frequent between 11 and 16. Although such behaviours are related to suicidality, it is best to consider them as somewhat different. Studies have shown that they are not usually meant to lead to death. Most often, they are linked to an adolescent feeling extremely angry, disappointed, frustrated or anxious about a series of incidents. When counselled, an adolescent will describe the emotion related to the self-harm as soothing and helps to settle them. Pain and pleasure have become solidly associated and are almost interchangeable.

It is important that parents begin to use better listening skills with their adolescent when they discover self-harming behaviours. Often the behaviour starts because of the adolescent not feeling heard by family or friends. It is not necessary for the parent to solve the problem for their adolescent. It is more important to listen and give statements that convey to the adolescent that it is understood what they are going through, and then assist them in getting professional help.

If you would like to have more information or investigate the possibility of skilled professional help for your adolescent, contact Lorraine.