What Every Parent Of Girls Needs To Know: Teenage Girls & Self-Harm

When you were a teenager, cutting probably meant that you were ditching school. But for some teens today, cutting means they are intentionally hurting themselves. According to the National Institutes of Health, 19% of 9th grade girls who participated in a study said they inflicted nonsuicidal injury to themselves.

Think about that for a second. That's almost one in every five girls at the tender ages of 14-15 years old. Here's what you need to know if you are concerned about your teenager self-harming.

Self-Harm Is Not a Mental Illness but Can Be Addictive

It's important to understand that self-harm is not considered a mental illness, but it can be associated with several types of illnesses, including anxiety, depression, and borderline personality disorder. Self-harm is indicative that the individual lacks coping skills, which may be related to these types of illnesses. Because of this, people who have a tendency to self-harm should seek psychiatric treatment and counseling.

Self-harming should be taken very seriously since it can become addictive. If your teen continually self-harms, he or she will likely be at a greater risk of developing health issues, especially if they cut themselves too deeply and/or the cuts become infected.

Psychiatric Treatment & Counseling Are Necessary

Ask a psychiatrist to evaluate your teen to see what, if any, underlying concerns there are regarding their mental health, such as anxiety and/or depression. Mental health issues that are the root cause of self-harm need to be treated by a psychiatrist and a psychologist in order for the self-harming behaviors to be dealt with.

A psychiatrist treats mental health issues with medication, which can take time to find a suitable prescription and dosage. A psychologist treats mental health issues through counseling, which can focus on giving your teen other coping strategies to help with their mental health issues.

It's important to understand that if the psychiatrist and/or psychologist feel that your teen needs an intensive evaluation and treatment due to having fresh scars from self-harming, he or she may highly recommend that your teen go to an inpatient facility for immediate attention.

Precautions Are Important for Treatment

Obviously, due to self-harm being an addiction, treatment may not be effective if your teen is able to self-harm at home. Think of this addiction as being similar to an alcoholic addiction. When an alcoholic returns home from mental health treatment, whether inpatient or outpatient, the home should be free of alcoholic beverages of any kind so the person is not tempted when they may be vulnerable.

If your teen will be in an inpatient facility, you will have more time to secure the various things in the home that could be used as tools for self-harming. If your teen is going to outpatient appointments, you'll obviously have to find time to go through your home to reduce the risks without your teen being present to see where you hide tools they can use to self-harm.

You'll want to keep all razors, knives, tweezers, nail clippers, and other sharp objects away from them. These types of items should be placed in a lockable box. It is crucial that you lock up all medication, too, especially ones that are prescribed to your teen by his or her psychiatrist.

It's important to realize that people with an addiction to self-harming may try anything to fulfill their desire to inflict injuries on themselves. For example, a crumbled up, rough paper towel that is rubbed onto the skin may easily cause an abrasion if it's done long enough. Speak with the psychiatrist and therapist, from a place like The Center for Family Counseling, Inc., about other ways to help your teen cope with any anxiety or depression.