BACP Registered Therapist Offering Anxiety Therapy for Adults and Teens, Relationship Counselling for Couples in Exeter and Across the UK

Is your teen self-harming?

Is your teen self-harming?

Being a teen is hard; there is no manual for getting through teenage issues. So, when they struggle, is it any wonder they turn to unhelpful coping mechanisms or even self-destructive behaviour?

Self-harming behaviour can be distressing for the teen and those around them because they may not understand why they cut themselves, and it may also leave parents with a sense of failure, blame or shame. This in itself can make communication harder.

It may be assumed that if a teen is cutting themselves they must be suicidal. This is normally not the case.

NSPCC have this to say about self-harm:

“Self-harm can take lots of physical forms, including cutting, burning, bruising, scratching, hair-pulling, poisoning and overdosing. There are many reasons why children and young people try to hurt themselves, and once they start, it can become a compulsion. That’s why it’s so important to spot it as soon as possible and do everything you can to help. Self-harm isn’t usually a suicide attempt or a cry for attention. Instead, it’s often a way for young people to release overwhelming emotions. It’s a way of coping. So, whatever the reason, it should be taken seriously.”

I often hear young people say that friends and family think they are seeking attention. It is important to know that this isn’t usually the case.

Being a teen today brings many challenges. Some of these challenges won’t go away as they come with the territory. Some of the issues counsellors can spot within their work with teens who self-harm are:

  • Loneliness.
  • Fear they will lose their closest friendships.
  • Lack of confidence.
  • Inability to express anger.
  • Lack of control over their lives.

These reasons can be very similar for adults; however teens are still learning to navigate their emotional landscape.

Q-Does this mean I have failed as a parent?

A-No, what it does mean is that your child is struggling with something which may or may not have anything to do with you. They are growing up, and experiencing real life issues that they just don’t know how to manage more effectively.

Q-What can I do to help my teen who is self-harming?

A-Listen without judgement or wanting to change them. Address any wounds, and don’t forget first-aid is important. Don’t tell them to stop – if they could, they would.

Seek professional help, with the safeguarding lead at your teen’s school or a private counsellor. If you are distressed by your teen’s behaviour then get help to manage your own emotions so that you can help your teen. I will repeat the first point of listening without judgement. Don’t use phrases like, “I don’t understand why you cut yourself” or “Is this my fault?”

If you are concerned that your teen may be cutting themselves or know someone who is impacted by self-harming, please get in touch with a counsellor. We are all here to help.

Additional support site: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/cutting-and-self-harm.htm

Should we ignore negative emotions?

A splinter in your finger or a pebble in your shoe are both uncomfortable physical sensations. If we experience either, we are encouraged to reach for the tweezers or take our shoe off, to relieve our discomfort.

When we feel anxious, sad or angry for example, we are presented with a host of uncomfortable physical sensations. Some of the physical sensations can be dizziness, heart palpitations, tummy discomfort or muscle tension.

Like with the splinter or the pebble we seek to remedy the situation. We ask questions and investigate. We draw our attention to the discomfort and without much thought we are able to take action because we’ve dealt with this before and it worked, therefore we know that a pair of tweezers will help the pain experienced by the splinter.

What do we do when we experience uncomfortable emotions? Do we pay close attention or do we label these sensations (called feelings) and ignore them?

Whether we think an emotion is “good” or “bad” it is part of a group. Emotions come as a package not in isolation. When we discount our feelings by minimising them, we are in some way doing this for all feelings and emotions. If we succeed in dampening one, we might discover that the ones we desire such as joy, love or pride are dampened as well.

So it is easy to see how we can get into a sticky situation where we no longer experience healthy emotional levels and feel flat, we could be heading for depression. Another extremity is feeling too much emotion and being overwhelmed when we can no longer manage emotions in a healthy way which could be anxiety. If you are nodding your head and thinking “yes, I can see that” and want to learn new healthy ways of managing your emotional discomfort, I would encourage you to give time to the negative emotions as well as positive. This does not mean to say that we pity ourselves.

I will leave you with this question – “are you seeking relief from an emotional splinter?”