Teens who use a knife, razor or other sharp object to cut parts of their body, drawing blood are cutters. Many people believe that teen cutting is a way to get attention, that the cutter is suicidal or that the teen cutter is dangerous but these are not the facts. UT Family Relations professor, Denise Brandon, says that teen cutters use self-injury as a way to cope with their emotions. Cutters do not want to kill themselves but use cutting as a way to feel alive. They only want to mutilate themselves and are not dangerous to anyone else.
The most prevalent teen cutters and why they cut
Most teen cutters are girls from 15 years old and up but teenage boys also cut themselves. They usually live in middle to upper income families and cannot cope with circumstances that cause anxiety. Teen cutters feel anger, frustration and helplessness in their situation and they don’t know how to talk about it.
Signs of teen cutting
Signs of teen cutting are subtle but if you suspect your teen of cutting, there are certain things to look for. Teen cutters do not want their cuts to be seen. They often wear long sleeve shirts and long pants even in hot weather. Also, check for any visible small scratches on the face or hands. The visible scratches are usually superficial, fine scratches.
What to do if your teen is cutting
Parents who discover that their teen is cutting often react with horror, anger and most of all, fear. They are afraid their child will commit suicide or is only seeking attention. Reacting with negativity, punishment or emotional breakdown will not help your teen cutter’s situation. The worst thing to do is ignore the cutting, hoping that your teen will stop on her own. One of the first things to do is seek professional help for your teen. Speaking to a therapist allows your teen to let go of pent up feelings and emotional stress.
Remain calm and try to determine why your teen would hurt himself. What is bothering him so much that he would do such a thing? Give understanding to your child and avoid being judgmental of your teenager.
Try to get your teen talking by commenting on how stressful she seems or how upset she is. Let your teen cutter know that she is not crazy or strange. Talk about emotions, calmly trying to get your teenager to open up to you.
Build your teens self-esteem by emphasizing what she excels at and showing interest in her achievements. Suggest projects you can do together to develop a closer relationship, leading to conversations about your teen’s life.
Find ways for your teenager to express feelings, being open and supportive. Exercise with your teen to relieve tension and make sure your teenager’s friends offer positive influences.
University of Tennessee: Cutting and Other Self-Injurious Behaviors
Kids Health: What Is Cutting?