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What Are Some Ways to Help Self-Harm?

teenage with a bruise around his eye

Self-harm is a major problem facing teens. It is self-destructive, dangerous, and can even cause long-term damage to a teen’s body. Further, physical self-harm is any self-injury that involves intentionally inflicting harm on the body. Let’s explore what self-harm is and how a teen can find help.  

Why Self-Harm

There is a range of reasons why adolescents self-harm. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • To cope with anxiety, stress, loneliness, or depression.
  • To feel better for the moment by numbing.
  • To regulate their emotions.
  • To release tension or feel less pressured.
  • To deal with difficult emotions and experiences.
  • To cope with the stigma associated with mental health issues.
  • To feel a sense of control when they are feeling hopeless or helpless.
  • To show others their emotions without having to say anything.
  • To cope with trauma.

Teens often turn to self-harm as a response to the pressures they face in their lives. Some of these pressures involve school, family troubles, or peer influence. When parents and teens learn about the reasons for self-harm, they can work together to manage the emotions and feelings that lead to this behavior. 

What Are the Warning Signs of Self-Harm?

Understanding the warning signs of self-harm can help both parents and teenagers find appropriate care. 

Some of the symptoms that are associated with self-harm include:

  • Frequent, unexplained injuries or bruises
  • Changes in mood or behavior over a short period of time
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Avoiding social interactions
  • Often wearing long clothing that hides the injuries
  • Expressing thoughts of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Showing reckless behavior
  • Loss of interest in extracurricular activities or school
  • Harmful items such as blades, broken glass, scissors, lighters, or knives found in their space

The Connection Between Substance Use Disorders and Self-Harm

Self-harm and SUD cause similar feelings of cravings in a person. Additionally, adolescents who experience self-harm have a higher-than-average risk of developing a SUD. These teens may also have a history of traumatic experiences, including being sexually or physically abused, bullied, or witnessing violence. 

Like SUD, self-harm serves as a coping mechanism that allows teens to deal with severe emotional or psychological trauma. A person feels more in control and believes they have the power to change their situation. 

Substance use can also increase the risk of self-injury. Sometimes, teenagers start by self-harming then progress to drug use. Under the influence, teens often lose sight of their actions, which leaves them vulnerable to hurting themselves. Both untreated SUD and self-harm can lead to long-term effects such as depression, self-esteem issues, and mental or emotional issues.

Resisting the Urge to Self-Harm

Therapy helps with healing this condition. However, some techniques can help teens manage their urges.

  • Distraction: Writing, exercise, meditation, watching a movie, or calling a friend, can serve as distractions until the urges pass.
  • Soothe and Calming Techniques: Finding a healthy method to relieve stressful emotions such as meditation, exercise, a bath, breathing exercises, self-care activities, walking nature, or hanging out with friends are great ways to help teens relax.
    • Express Pain and Deep Emotion: Many teens find it challenging to find a safe person to express their feelings – especially the painful ones. There is always the fear that their peers or loved ones will judge them or that they will not be supportive of them. At Clearfork Academy, we recommend practicing active listening and refraining from judging.
  • Connect With Others: Connecting with supportive people benefits recovery and long-term wellbeing. Such settings help teenagers connect through hobbies, sports, or volunteering. Participating in these activities helps teens live well and avoid destructive choices.
  • Release Tension: Some teens who self-harm use it for the sensation of releasing tension from their bodies. When tension builds for an extended period of time, our bodies become sick with the stress. Those who self-harm can use relaxation techniques such as massages, stretching, or pilates to gain the same sensation.

Help Your Teen Cope With Their Emotions

Being overwhelmed is normal when teens face the emotions associated with school stress. Many teens do not tell their parents about their self-harm because they feel ashamed. To help create a safe environment for teens to feel sad, mad, frustrated, or scared requires assisting teens to develop healthy ways to manage their stress or pain. 

Consider working through their feelings with them by doing things they enjoy, such as playing a game, reading a book, or watching a funny movie. Additionally, consider a treatment program like the intensive outpatient program offered at Clearfork Academy. 

Self-harm is most often used as a form of emotional self-regulation to cope with painful emotions.  Teens who turn to self-harm may also experience guilt, anxiety, and depression. Such feelings could also result in them turning to drugs or alcohol. Therefore it is crucial to understand the underlying causes of your teens’ behavior, and Clearfork Academy can help. We provide resources for teens to manage their urges to self-harm through cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), motivational interviewing, problem-solving skills training, and trauma-focused treatment. With us, teens will develop healthy habits to help them avoid self-harm urges long after treatment. If your teenager is currently struggling to overcome their self-harm behaviors, then the time to get help is now. We offer admissions 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so there is never a wrong time to reach out. To learn more, contact us at Clearfork Academy today and call (855) 580-1638.