Self-injury can manifest in a variety of ways. **Cutting is an outward indication that a child is hurting and wants help.** If you see signs of cutting in a young person, such as unexplained wounds or wearing long sleeves in warm weather, respond proactively to provide assistance. It's possible to overcome this behavior to achieve recovery, but your child will need your support. To provide help, learn about causes, underlying issues and typical treatment recommendations.
Possible Causes of Cutting Behavior
Girls tend to cut themselves more than boys. Sometimes emotions and feelings can feel so overwhelming, that people will do almost anything to make them go away. Cutting behavior is someone's loud cry for help to communicate that something is wrong. Cutting can be one response mechanism that a child uses to cope with uncomfortable emotions, states the KidsHealth website. Cutting may also be a form of distraction used by some people, wishing to inflict physical pain on themselves to mask emotional pain, according to the Mayo Clinic website. Some people turn to cutting behavior as something they can control when other issues such as sexual abuse or physical mistreatment are beyond their control. People who cut may struggle with feeling invisible in a family or feeling inadequate with demanding parents, according to information published on the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy website. In these cases, a youngster turns to cutting as an outlet for voicing feelings of frustration, anger or distress.
When you notice cutting behavior in a child, it's common to feel alarm and fear about the self-harm. Many parents assume that these actions are a type of suicidal behavior. Although cutting can accompany deep depression and suicidal thoughts, this is not necessarily true of everyone, advises the KidsHealth website. Cutting generally progresses from mild to more serious methods of self-injury, warns psychologist Allison Kress. Without intervention, the injuries inflicted may become potentially serious.
After noticing indications of this behavior, proceed carefully to get help. Before approaching your child, take the time to calm yourself so you don't overreact during a conversation. Upsetting your youngster could increase her desire to hurt herself. Do not raise your voice, assign blame or show extreme reaction. Instead, calmly tell your child that you have concerns about what you have noticed. Communicate your desire to help your child manage and express her emotions effectively. Stress that you will never punish your youngster for cutting. Do not minimize the seriousness of these actions, but explain to your child that you want to find help for her.
How to Support Positively
Your child needs your positive support, help and guidance to overcome cutting. Generally, contracts between kids and parents to stop cutting are not effective, warns the Adolescent Self Injury Foundation website. Instead, seek help from your child's primary physician. This doctor will likely provide you with a referral to a professional who can provide individual and family therapy to address underlying issues. Cooperate with recommendations you receive from the therapist, and encourage your child to remain involved with treatment to work through the emotions. Understand that your child will need to undergo a process whereby he learns different ways to manage uncomfortable emotions and thoughts. Lapses can happen during this process. Insist that your child continue with therapy, even if he wants to quit. Maintain a positive presence, following therapist recommendations and encouraging your child toward recovery. If you ever have emergency concerns about your child's physical well-being, get emergency help by calling 911 or taking your child to the emergency room.