Have you ever noticed what looks like scratches on your child’s arms or legs? And when you ask about the marks, you’re told that they’re from a pet or from bumping into some piece of furniture.
The marks may look similar to what a cat scratch or a bump into an object might create, but could be indications of something much more complex and serious.
Self-injury or “cutting” has become an increasingly widespread trend among teenagers and young adults, particularly those in high school and college. It is thought to be the most common form of self harm. Because cutting is done in private and associated with a great deal of shame and guilt, it’s difficult to determine precise prevalence rates.
Studies suggest that the rates of self-injury among adolescents and young adults are as high as 24 to 38 percent. On the average, girls engage in this form of self-injury more than boys, although the number of boys who engage in this behavior is growing.
There are many reasons reported for why someone might self-injure. Some do this as a way of controlling and expressing emotions related to anxiety and depression, including feelings of anger, sorrow, despair, and frustration.
Some cut to experience the physical sensation of pain because they feel dead inside, while others report the sight of blood as comforting, and helping them feel alive. Individuals report feeling more in control of their bodies when they cut.
Those who self-injure report that cutting provides a temporary distraction from personal problems. It is often done impulsively.
Many are influenced to cut by hearing stories of peers who use this method to cope and share their experiences. It is mistakenly used as a coping strategy to feel better and relieve stress.
Parents should be on the lookout for any unexplained cuts or bruises on their child’s body. Self-harm behavior should be taken very seriously and not ignored and when speaking with a child who self-injures or cuts, a nurturing and caring approach is always better. Self-injury is not a child’s attempt at getting back at a parent, and is usually not being done for attention.
There may be significant dangers from self-injury and cutting, including risk of infection, scarring, and/or misjudging the depth of an incision. Although most people do not intend to kill themselves, you cannot rule out the possibility. Cutting is a behavioral symptom associated with a serious emotional disorder that should be addressed immediately.
Dr. Christine Weber is a clinical psychologist/neuropsychologist with a practice on 2234 Jackson Ave, Seaford.