Cutting is a common form of self-harm often utilized by adolescents who are typically not suicidal, but intentionally seeking to injure themselves. These behaviors are frequently seen as attention seeking. However, cutters usually take steps to ensure their self-inflicted wounds are not seen by altering clothing choices or behavior patterns to conceal the scars or wounds. A child would not hide the wounds if they were deliberately trying to seek attention. Therefore, it is more accurate to view cutting as a coping mechanism. Cutting is generally an attempt to relieve emotional pain or discomfort. Evidence of repeated and intentional self-harm is a strong indicator of the need for professional treatment.
Treatment for cutting or self-harm behaviors depends on the identified cause. Cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy are most often used in treatment. The therapies are used to identify the cause, eliminate thinking errors, and develop healthy coping methods. In addition, providing cutters with alternative outlets of expression has proven useful. Healthy alternatives include journaling, walking, sports, music, spending time with others, etc. These outlets provide the child with healthier ways to cope with their emotions and stress. The removal of objects used for cutting is important in helping the child resist immediate urges for self-harm as well.
The cultural identification with cutting is with an “underworld” element rather than the “normal” middle-class setting in which it so commonly occurs. Therefore, parents are often stunned to discover that their child is cutting. Triggering factors for self-harm include low self-esteem, isolation from friends, and lack of acceptance within the family. It is important for parents to not react in anger, or to deny there is a problem either. Parents should convey to the child their need for help and seek out professional treatment.
Promise Village: Home for Children has worked with children with a history of self-harm or with thoughts of cutting. These children are provided effective coping strategies, alternative outlets, and professional treatment. Promise Village: Home for Children provides a safe environment and the necessary treatment to a young person struggling with cutting.
Contact us today at 1-877-A-PROMISE to learn more.
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