Teen cutting is a complex self harm behavior that is difficult to navigate. Here are answers to the top 7 frequently asked questions about teen cutting. When a child is cutting, it is hard for the child and caregiver.
Are you are a teen who is trying to understand why you cut? Or are you are a caregiver who found out your daughter is cutting her arms and legs? Read on for immediate help, information, and free resources.
Self harm is more common than most people realize. According to a recent study 1 in 5 children report having a self harm incident. Click here to read the 5 warning signs for parents about teen cutting.
Here are the answers to FAQ on cutting so you have the needed information.
Top 7 FAQ & Answers About Teen Cutting
Here are answers to the most commonly asked questions about teens who cut or self-harm.
1. Is cutting the only way that teens self harm?
No, self harm includes a number of behaviors intended to cause intentional injury.
Self harm behaviors can include:
- Food restriction
- skin picking
- hair pulling
- interfering with healing
If you know that your child is inflicting self-injury, it needs to be taken seriously. Any intentional injury falls under the category of self harm and indicates significant emotional distress.
2. Why do girls self-harm more than boys?
Studies indicate girls are 3 times more likely to self harm than boys. According to researchers there are multiple variables that contribute to a higher self harm rate for girls.
Factors that seem to impact girls more than boys include:
- peer pressure
- social media
- gender inequality
- negative feelings
- low self image
These factors put girls in a high risk category for self harm behaviors. These findings should be taken seriously and indicate a need to provide additional supports to girls. Building self image is necessary in reducing the risk factors for girls.
3. Do teens cut for attention?
We typically view attention seeking as a negative behavior. Incidents of self harm are a cry for help and a call to action.
If your child is cutting, they are telling you they need help.
While cutting may include some level of manipulation, that is secondary to the primary cause of self harm. Primarily, self harm is a behavior that indicates significant mental and emotional distress.
Never assume cutting is only for attention. Take any incident of cutting seriously.
Some teens describe self harm as a way to release emotional pain through physical pain. To experience emotional pain to this level of severity is significant and requires intervention.
4. I want to cut myself, what should I do?
If you are considering cutting yourself, first know you are brave. It takes guts to acknowledge that you are struggling.
Typically, self harm is about trying to cope with emotional pain by distracting or disrupting your thinking. Know that you are not alone and there are people who can help.
One helpful resource is calling a crisis line. Know you don’t have to be in crisis to call or text this service. You can contact a crisis line if you are just needing to talk, ask questions or get advice.
Do you have a friend who confided in you that they want to self harm? You can call or text a crisis line to get advice on what to do for that as well.
Ask for help. Tell someone you trust about your thoughts, such as a teacher, parent, friend, or school counselor. We acknowledge that can be extremely difficult. Calling or texting with a crisis worker can help you determine if you are ready to ask for help from a trusted adult in your life.
Your pain is valid. There is help. Whatever is causing the pain is probably not a simple fix. Maybe it is even something you have no control over. Just know that help is available.
Here are two resources you can contact:
- Shout Crisis Line: Text “SHOUT” to 85258
- Youth Minds: Text “YM” to 85258
5. Why do people cut?
The reason why people self harm is often misunderstood. Cutting can be connected to childhood trauma, physical abuse, neglect, depression or anxiety.
Girls are at a much higher risk to engage in cutting, yet it occurs in boys as well. Self harm behaviors often begin anywhere from 10-18 years of age.
Cutting may be caused by any of the following:
- a need to express strong emotions
- an attempt to cope
- an attempt to gain control when life or thoughts feel out of control
- a form of self punishment
- a way to alleviate stress
- or a number of other reasons
While cutting is not typically an attempt to end life, it is highly correlated with suicidal thoughts. Repeated incidents of self harm are one of the highest risk factors for suicidal attempts.
In short, you don’t have to know why to know that it is serious. Get help immediately if you or someone you love is cutting.
6. How do I stop cutting?
Reducing or stopping self harm behavior typically requires help. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go to, or stay overnight in, a hospital or mental health facility, although that is helpful for some people. (Click here for help on finding residential treatment.)
It does mean that you will need help. Cutting is not safe, and there are other options. There are alternatives to self harm options available at Self Injury website.
For a trained crisis counselor’s quick response you can text “TWLOHA” to 741-741.
What type of treatment methods are available for cutting? Some of the best treatment methods for self-harm include:
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
- Mentalization Based Therapy (MBT)
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Help is available 24/7,free and confidential. You can call Lifeline at 988 or check out information on the Lifeline website.
7. What do I do when my teen is cutting?
Most importantly, you can not ignore signs or proof that your child is cutting. Do not believe parents who tell you it is a phase or just something they saw online.
Cutting is serious self injury, and you need to act to ensure the best possible outcome for your child.
Here are Do’s and Don’t suggestions if you discover your child is cutting:
- Do: Talk with your child when you are calm. Be supportive and ask how you can help.
- Don’t: Talk with your child while you are upset. This is about what how your child feels, not how you feel.
You are expected to have strong feelings. However, your child is not in a position to help you with your feelings. Their behavior of cutting is letting you know they are having strong feelings of their own that they are having difficulty managing.
Their self injury is not about you and how you feel. It is about them. You are going to need to get to a place of calm and approach the conversation with a ‘how can I help’ mindset.
While self injury is not always a suicide attempt, it is serious. There are lots of resources available for you and your child. Never forget that help is available for all of you.
Click here for a free PDF printable checklist of the 7 steps to take when your child needs residential treatment.
Another reason people might cut is because bloodletting is therapeutic. It’s a medical practice, even, oftentimes to relieve certain pressure out in the field. The act alone provides a relief indescribable to people who have never felt it. The closest similarity I have is drinking something cold after spending a lot of time outside. A refreshing wave of calm washes over.
This isn’t unnatural, some kind of thing that only happens in people who cut. That’s why it’s called a “therapeutic phlebotomy”. The body releases loads of endorphins to battle the injury, which gives you a sense of high — your natural painkillers are allowing you to focus on the emotional aspects of the pain.