Why Do Teens Self-Harm?The logic behind self-harm can be confusing to those who don’t understand what the victim is gaining from the experience. Physically, self-harm produces a rush of endorphins into the system, which results in a temporary numbing or pleasurable sensation. Teens that participate in such behavior are seeking a “high” that effectively separates them from the stress or strong emotion they are experiencing at the moment. Some of the more common stressors that lead teens to self-harm are:
- Emotional detachment or invalidation from parents or caregivers.
- Feeling emotionally dead or “invisible” to their peers. Self-harms reminds them that they are alive.
- Desire to fit in with a peer group that encourages and rewards such behavior.
- Girls may use self-harm to cope with the expectations of overly demanding parents, most specifically in situations where the father plays the most dominant role.
- Academic expectations
- Poor body image
What Should I Watch For?Self-harm is often a secretive behavior and teens will go to great lengths to keep it from their parents and other authority figures. Some of the signs to watch for are:
- Burns or cuts on the arms, legs or stomach. Generally self-harmers injure themselves where it can be covered up.
- Lengthy isolation after a fight, bad day at school or other negative experience.
- Self-harming behavior among your teen’s close peers.
- Finding razors, scissors, knives, lighters or matches among your teens bedroom possessions.
- Reports of concern from siblings, teachers or friends who have observed physically destructive behavior in your teen.