Thursday, April 12, 2012


Q: My daughter keeps talking about friends at school that are “cutting” themselves. She and I wonder why someone would do that.

A: Cutting happens often among adolescents, especially females. A common misconception is that when a teen cuts herself she must be attempting to take her life. Most often, cutting is a way to cope with an emotional difficulty instead of a suicide attempt. However, if anyone speaks of wanting to harm oneself or end his or her life, this should be handled seriously. A professional counselor or doctor should be contacted immediately.

While females are more likely to cut than males, males engage in other self-injurious behavior.  They may burn themselves in small patches or poke themselves with sharp objects.  No matter what the self-injurious behavior is, it is still a cry for help.  These teenagers are experiencing pain that they do not know how to handle.  Therefore, they are engaging in negative coping strategies to make it through.  

Adolescents who cut or engage in other self-harming behavior have discovered they would rather feel the physical pain on their bodies instead of continuing to feel the emotional pain in their lives. Therefore, the cutting begins to be comforting in its own way. Research shows that cutting is habit-forming, so if a teen continues cutting, his or her parents need to seek therapy or individual counseling for them. As a parent, encourage your daughter to communicate with you about whether friends experience as well as the challenges she faces. Remind your teen she can always come to you with anything that is of concern.

*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.
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