Self harm and cutting are often misunderstood as attention-seeking behavior. However, most often this is a symptom of deep emotional pain or anger. Individuals who self-harm – typically teens and young adults – tend to feel disconnected from the world around them. The physical pain caused by self-injury allows the individual to temporarily escape feelings of loneliness and pain that may be more difficult to deal with, or perhaps actually feel something when they are otherwise numb.

Forms of self-injury include cutting, burning, hitting, intentionally picking at wounds to keep them from healing, and even reckless driving or binge drinking. Some warning signs that a friend or loved one may be harming themselves include

  • Scars – often from burns or cuts
  • Fresh cuts, scratches, bruises or other wounds
  • Broken bones
  • Keeping sharp objects on hand
  • Wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather
  • Claiming to have frequent accidents or mishaps
  • Spending a great deal of time alone
  • Pervasive difficulties in interpersonal relationships
  • Persistent questions about personal identity, such as “Who am I?” “What am I doing here?”
  • Behavioral and emotional instability, impulsivity and unpredictability
  • Statements of helplessness, hopelessness or worthlessness

Mayo Clinic, Dec 2012

If you have the urge to self-harm, you are no doubt familiar with the shame and guilt that follows, along with the eventual return of the emotional pain you were seeking to escape. If you are the parent of a child who self-injures, then you are probably filled with confusion, fear and worry about why your child would want to self-harm. Parenting an adolescent is tough enough without the added stress and worry of self-harming behaviors.

At LifeWorks, we seek to work with and support the entire family in this difficult and confusing situation. Our counselors work with cutters and other self-harmers to create a plan for reducing self-injurious behaviors while developing healthier coping skills. Through our outside-of-the-box solutions, including expressive arts, sand tray therapy, and yoga therapy, individual therapy and family therapy, we’ll also help you process the emotional issues underlying the self-harming behavior.

If this hits close to home and you are ready to talk to someone, contact our LifeWorks office to set up an appointment today. If you are unsure if your behavior constitutes self-harm, give LifeWorks a call and we can set you up with a counselor to discuss your specific behaviors.