No parent wants to think about the possibility that their child could be self-harming but unfortunately, the followingself-harming statistics in the United States speak volumes:
- Adolescents have the highest rate of self-injurious behaviors out of all age groups.
- Nearly one in four teenage girls have self-harmed.
- Only about 50% of teenagers who self-harm speak to someone about it, but this is mostly to friends rather than a mental health professional.
Whether you already suspect your teenager may be self-harming, or you want to educate yourself in case the worst does happen, being able to spot the signs of self-harm could ultimately save your child’s life.
1. Unexplained injuries
If you notice that your teenager has cuts, bruises, or burns—often on their arms, wrists, thighs, or chest—and they cannot give you a reasonable explanation as to how these injuries were inflicted, this is a strong indication that they may be self-harming.
That being said, these injuries could also be the result of an abusive relationship so you need to tread carefully when talking to your teen about this.
If your teen does admit that they have been self-harming, it is imperative that you seek help for them straight away, even though they may not think they need it. A good place to start is juvenile residential treatment centers that can offer you professional advice on how to support your child during this difficult time.
2. Covering up their bodies
Although your teen’sshyness levels may already have increased when it comes to their body due to the physical changes that occur during adolescence, if you notice that your teen suddenly starts wearing long-sleeved tops even in hot weather, this may be because they are trying to cover up their self-harming injuries.
3. Sudden change in eating habits
Self-harming behaviors and eating disorders often go hand in hand, so if your teen is suddenly either under- or overeating, this could be a sign that they are struggling with one or more mental health disorders.
Excessive exercise is also a common occurrence in people with an eating disorder, so be vigilant of this in your teen.
4. Pulling their hair out
A form of self-harm, the act of pulling one’s hair out—or trichotillomania as it is scientifically known—is a mental health condition that involves repeated urges to pull out hair from different parts of the body. This can include the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes.
If you notice your teen doing this, then you may want to consider talking therapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), which have proven to be highly effective at treating this condition.
5. Wanting to be alone
As with most mental health disorders, people who are self-harming tend to want to spend long periods of time alone. This is partly so that they can conceal their unhealthy behaviors and also because they feel shame and guilt around what they are doing.
Teens who are self-harming are also more likely to challenge the relationships in their lives such as with you as parents, with their friends, and any romantic involvements they may have.