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What Is Cutting and What Are the Signs?

teen struggling with their mental health holds their head after researching what is cutting

Note for readers: This page discusses the topic of self-harm. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24/7 at 988. Or, if you are concerned about an emergency situation, dial 911.    

As parents, we constantly worry about our children’s well-being, especially during their teenage years. This concern intensifies when we encounter alarming self-harm behaviors like cutting. But what is cutting, exactly?

Family First offers adolescent self-harm treatment at our center in South Florida. Your teen should never feel like they’re alone when facing mental or emotional health issues. We will support their recovery while working with your family to build a healthier home environment. Call 888.904.5947 now for help.

What Is Cutting?

Cutting is a specific form of self-harm that involves intentionally cutting or scratching one’s own skin. It is typically done with a sharp object such as a razor blade, knife, or even broken glass. While it’s often misinterpreted as attention-seeking, cutting is often a coping mechanism for individuals who are struggling with overwhelming feelings of emotional pain or distress.

Why Do Teens Self-Harm?

Self-harm is not a trend or a call for attention but rather a cry for help. It’s a physical manifestation of internal emotional distress, often associated with feelings of sadness, anger, confusion, or emptiness. However, it’s crucial to remember that every teenager’s experience with cutting can be different.

Teenagers who engage in cutting often feel an overwhelming sense of relief after the act. This temporary relief from emotional pain can lead to a vicious cycle, where the teenager resorts to self-harm again when faced with distressing emotions or situations.

Challenging Emotions Are Hard to Express

Adolescents dealing with complex emotions might not know how to verbalize their feelings to others. As a result, they turn to self-harm as a way of releasing or coping with these emotions. It’s important for parents to recognize that cutting is not always an attempt at suicide—it’s often an unhealthy coping mechanism.

However, it’s essential to take cutting seriously and seek professional help, as it is extremely dangerous. The wounds can become infected, and the severity of the cutting behavior may escalate over time.

Recognizing the Signs of Cutting in Teens

As a parent, it’s essential to recognize the signs of cutting in your teenager. These signs may vary, but common ones include:

  • Unexplained cuts, scratches, or scars, often on the arms, wrists, or thighs.
  • Wearing long sleeves or pants even in warm weather to hide injuries.
  • Finding sharp objects (like razors or knives) among your teenager’s belongings.
  • Isolation or withdrawal from friends, family, and activities they once enjoyed.
  • Emotional instability, including frequent mood swings, loss of appetite, or difficulty sleeping.

Spotting the signs of cutting in your teenager can be challenging, as they may go to great lengths to hide their behavior from loved ones. Building open communication and trust with them can help you better spot when something is wrong.

What Is Cutting and Self-Harm Treatment Like?

Cutting and self-harm treatment often involves therapy, medication, and support from loved ones. Therapy can help teenagers understand the underlying reasons for their behavior and learn healthier coping mechanisms. Medication may be prescribed to address any underlying mental health conditions that contribute to self-harm.

Treatment also includes support from family members and loved ones. Family therapy can help improve communication and build a more supportive and understanding home environment. It’s crucial for parents to educate themselves on self-harm and be actively involved in their teenager’s recovery process.

Family First Adolescent Services Can Help

At Family First Adolescent Services, we understand the complexities of teenage mental health issues like cutting. Our team of professionals is experienced and equipped to provide comprehensive care for your teenager.

Our programs go beyond just addressing self-harming behaviors. We work closely with each teen to explore their underlying mental health to address it at the root. Parents also receive support and education to better understand their teen’s struggles and provide a supportive home environment for their recovery.

Don’t wait to get help. If your teen is engaging in self-harm or is stepping down from a hospitalization stay for cutting, contact Family First Adolescent Services online or by calling 888.904.5947 now.