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Teens and Self Harm

It is normal to feel scared, angry, or confused when your child is self-harming.   When a teenager self-harms, it is a sign that they are struggling with difficult emotions such as pain, anger, or sadness. They may be feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope with these emotions in a healthy way. My goal is to help you both feel supported and understood during this time.

You're A Parent Worried About Your Teen's Self- Harming

Self-harm is a serious issue that affects thousands  of teenagers.  It can be a very difficult topic for parents to talk about because our fears can overtake us.  

You might be worried about:

  • Fear of suicide: Self-harm is often seen as a cry for help, but it is more often a sign that something in your teen's emotional life is overwhelming for them.  I know, as a parent, it's hard not to equate cutting and self-harm with suicide but that is not always the intent. However, your child is intentionally hurting their body they might be more likely to hurt themselves in the future.  Either way, it's important to address the pain your teen is in.

  • Guilt and blame: You may feel guilty or blame yourself when your child  is self-harming. You might wonder if you did something wrong or if you could have prevented it. Self-harm is not your fault. It can be a complex issue that can be caused by a variety of factors, including trauma, environment, and personal experiences.

  • Feeling helpless: I know you feel helpless and at a loss.  You might not know what is the best way to support your child.  You are not alone and I'd love to help support you and your teenager. 

  • Anger: You might feel angry or frustrated that you child is self-harming. It's hard to  understand sometimes why a child would cut, burn or hurt themselves when life gets tough.   It is important to remember that anger is a normal emotion to feel in this situation. However, it is important to express your anger in a healthy way and to avoid blaming or shaming your child.  

Teen girls enjoying some screen time together.
Teenagers at Home

Why Do Teens Self-Harm?

**if you are a teen reading this I apologize for my format.  I'm writing for the adults in your life although some of what I say might also make sense for you

Teenagers might self-harm:​

  • To cope with difficult emotions. Self-harm can be a way for teens to deal with intense emotions, such as stress, anxiety, or depression. Cutting can provide a temporary release from these emotions similar to how an adult might use a glass of wine to forget a bad day.

  • To feel in control. Some teenagers cut themselves as a way to feel in control of their lives. When they are feeling overwhelmed or powerless, cutting can give them a sense of control over their own bodies.

  • To punish themselves. Some teens who cut themselves report it to be a way of punishing themselves for perceived mistakes or wrongdoings. They may also be cutting themselves as a way to express self-hatred or low self-esteem.

  • Because they feel ashamed. Many teens who self-harm do so in secret and feel ashamed of their behavior. This can begin a cycle of feeling ashamed - cutting more - feeling more shame.  It's important to help them stop the cycle.

  • To feel something. Some teens cut themselves because they want to feel something, even if it is pain. They may be feeling numb or empty inside, and cutting can be a way to feel something, anything.

It is important to remember that self-harm is not a choice. Teens who cut themselves are struggling with difficult emotions.


If you are concerned that a teen you know is engaging in self-harm and you live in Massachusetts, please reach out to schedule and appointment for counseling for teenagers .  I'm always happy to answer any questions you may have!

How does counseling for teenagers help my teen with self - harming?

Counseling can help teenagers who self-harm in a number of ways. It can help them:

  • Understand why they self-harm. Many teenagers who self-harm do so as a way to cope with difficult emotions, such as sadness, anger, or anxiety. Counseling for teenagers can help them understand the underlying reasons for their self-harm and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

  • Build coping skills. Teen counseling can teach teenagers healthy ways to cope with difficult emotions, such as relaxation techniques, mindfulness, and problem-solving skills.

  • Improve their self-esteem. Counseling can help teenagers build their self-esteem by helping them to identify their strengths and accomplishments, and to challenge negative thoughts about themselves.

  • Develop a support network. Teenagers who self-harm often feel isolated and alone. By discussing feelings of shame openly counseling can help teenagers learn to release feelings of shame.  Sharing with another person something you keep secret can be very powerful and healing.  

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