Self-Harm: Coping Strategies for Adolescents

Self-harm in teens is a common issue that seems to be growing year after year. As parents see their adolescent children participating in this behavior, they often find themselves unsure of what to do or how to help.

This guide will walk parents through details about how many teens self-harm, the reasons they may turn to this practice, and ways to help them overcome it.

What is Self-Harm?

Self-harm occurs when someone decides to purposefully hurt themselves as a way to deal with mental health concerns or psychological trauma. There are many ways that people may inflict self-harm, but the most common are cutting, self-hitting, burning, scratching, and others, such as piercing the skin or inserting objects under the skin.

How Common is Self-Harm in Adolescents?

According to University Hospitals, more than 20% of adolescents between the ages of 10 and 18 years old are self-harming. The most frequent practices teenagers are using include cutting, burning, or hitting themselves.

This practice of non-suicidal self-injury has become more consistent and continues to be a problem with over 8.3 million adolescents across the United States.

Many parents struggle to understand the reasoning behind these actions and don’t always know how to help their children cope with what’s going on behind the scenes. As parents are able to determine the ‘why,’ the more suited they’ll be to provide the support their child needs to overcome the trauma or mental health condition.

Why Do Teens Self-Harm?

While there is no definitive cause the leads to self-harm in teens, there are a few reasons that parents and other loved ones should be aware of. Many children turn to hurting themselves physically as a way to get past the emotional or mental turmoil they are feeling.

An adolescent that self-harms may be doing so because they’ve gone through a major psychological trauma, such as losing a loved one, getting into a car accident, or being a victim of rape. These situations can have damaging effects on young minds and may be difficult for them to process.

In other cases, a teenager could decide to self-harm out of sadness or depression. These mental health conditions could be caused by anything from struggling in school to going through a breakup.

It’s important for parents to understand that most scenarios of self-harm in adolescents don’t lead to thoughts of suicide. Hurting themselves is meant to be a temporary release from the emotional distress they’re feeling.

Coping Strategies for Teens Who Self-Harm

Once a parent can grasp why their teen is self-harming, the next step is to identify the ways an adolescent needs to feel supported during this time.

Don’t Overreact

Major reactions of anger or sadness may overwhelm a teenager and lead them to continue with their self-harming behavior. It is always better to approach these situations in a calm, loving way, so they feel safe.

Listen to Them

Give them an environment where they can speak freely and share their thoughts without judgment and dismay at their decisions. This will help them feel trusted and will help them trust in return.

Find Distractions

When it comes to coping with tragedy, distractions are a great way to get a teen’s mind off other aspects of their life. This could be fun family experiences, new hobbies, or developing new skill sets.

Release Tension in Other Ways

There are many ways to remove stress and tension that is weighing on a teenager’s mind. Some of the best techniques include working out, breathing exercises, yoga, stretching, going on walks, or even counting backward.

Getting Professional Help for Teens that Self-Harm

Parents and other loved ones should be able to recognize the causes and effects of self-harm in adolescents. This will allow them to know how they can help and be there in the way their teenagers need them.

If you have an adolescent friend or family member that is considering or already participating in self-harm, the team at OC Specialty Health & Hospitals is here to help. We offer the most trusted treatment for self-harm in teens.Contact us today by calling 949-900-8426 or 877-467-2223.

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