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Is Your Teen Cutting? How to Help

Is Your Teen Cutting? How to Help

Kids Health asserts “cutting – using a sharp object like a razorblade, knife, or scissors to make marks, cuts, or scratches on one’s body – is a form of self injury.” Self-injury refers to the non-suicidal act of deliberately harming one’s own body. Cutting is used for emotional regulation. According to the Mayo Clinic teenagers that cut themselves use “this type of self-injury as a harmful way to cope with emotional pain, intense anger, and frustration.” Cutting can occur on any area of one’s body, but it is most frequently seen on the arms, legs, and/ or front of the torso. It is normal and should be expected that most teenagers are likely to experience an array of challenging emotions during their teenage years. However, a teenager that engages in self-mutilation and/ or self-harm to cope should not be ignored. 

Warning Signs

Teenagers are notorious for exhibiting moody behavior and remaining exceedingly private. There is a plethora of potential reasons for the impetus behind why a teenager acts the way he or she does, but the reality is those reasons are rarely, if not ever, revealed to a parent and/ or caregiver. There are specific warning signs for which to be on the lookout regarding self-harming behaviors, such as cutting, in teens. Examples of these warning signs can include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Spending time with people that harm themselves
  • Only wearing long sleeved clothes, regardless of the outside temperature
  • The presence of cuts, bruises, scratches, burns, and/ or carvings on one’s body
  • Self-isolation
  • Noticing sharp objects hidden in his or her belongings

It can be difficult to distinguish self-harming behaviors from typical adolescent behaviors, as many of the warning signs indicative of a teen inflicting self-harming behaviors overlap with typical behaviors exhibited by any teenager. 

How To Help

If you have reason to believe your teenager is cutting or engaging in other self-harming behaviors it is important to intervene. Consider the following suggestions to help you help your teen stop cutting:

  1. Face it head-on: broach the topic in a non-judgmental, concerned, but direct way: Ask your teen directly if they are engaging in self-harm. In many cases, the direct approach is the most effective. Make sure your teen understands that your goal is to help them, not to judge or punish them.
  2. Acknowledge and validate: verbalize and acknowledge that your teenager must be experiencing overwhelming pain if they are hurting themselves.
  3. Brainstorm alternatives: identify activities your teen can do when they feel the urge to cut themselves.
  4. Help your teen create a list of people to talk to: speaking with and confiding in trusted friends and family can help a teenager cope with stress and reduce self-injury.
  5. Recognize your own parental limitations: understand that your teen may be dealing with certain issues that extend beyond your abilities and tap into the vast network of highly qualified professionals that have extensive experience and expert knowledge in treating teenagers.
  6. Patience is key: self-harming behavior is a learned behavior that takes the time to develop and will take the time to change. 

The best way to help a teen that is cutting themselves is to be able to recognize the warning signs and ultimately obtain professional guidance. Early intervention, family support, and professional assistance can help a teenager successfully stop self-harming. 

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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