Why is My Child Harming Themselves!?

Self- injury is a scary and confusing reality for many parents of teenagers in today’s world and it’s natural to yearn for explanations as to WHY.  Self-injury has been a documented medical issue since the 1870s but research began in the 1980s as to explain it’s causes, implications, and reasons.  It’s important to know that no two people self-injury for the same reasons but here are some of the most common explanations, and no, they are not doing it just for attention.

1.     Distract themselves, alter the focus of their attention, or regain control over their minds when experiencing pressing, unavoidable and overwhelming feelings or thoughts.

2.     Release tension associated with strong emotions or overwhelming thoughts.

3.     Feel something physical when they are otherwise dissociated and numb.

4.     Express themselves or communicate and/or document strong emotions they are feeling and cannot otherwise articulate.

5.     Punish themselves.

6.     Experience a temporary but intense feeling of euphoria that occurs in the immediate aftermath of self-harm

As you can see, self-injury is a serious, yet treatable, issue that many young people experiment with and experience today.  If your child is engaging in cutting, burning, biting, ingesting items, or other forms of self-injury, remember that there is hope as they are often self-injuring to self-sooth other emotions that are overwhelming.  Read the next blog post for suggestions as to how to help your child overcome self-injurious behavior.          



Kimberly Presley, MSW, LCSW

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