Self Harm

Parents often feel saddened, confused and frustrated when they find out their teens are harming themselves. Self-harm, such as cutting or burning, are unhealthy coping mechanisms that some teens develop in order to handle extreme emotions.

Teens who cut are often labeled as “drama queens” since they experience emotions in such an extreme way. Cutting usually occurs when a teen is either very agitated or very lethargic. In both cases, cutting helps them bring their emotions back to a middle ground.

Although the physiological reason is unknown, most teens who cut don’t experience physical pain when they harm themselves. Instead, they experience a sort of psychological release and can actually become addicted to the fight or flight hormones that get released into the body when they harm themselves.

It’s important to note that self-harm is a separate issue from suicide. Although a teen who hurts themselves may be suicidal, their self-harm is usually not associated with a suicide attempt.



Be patient. Overcoming the desire for self-harm can be a long process! Even though self-harm is clearly unhealthy, in your teen’s eyes, it works for them. It is the most successful way they have found to manage their emotions. Try to open up communication with your teen about their struggles with self-harm. Ask them questions and withhold judgment when they answer. When a teen is hurting themselves, the parent/child relationship often becomes stressed because parents have a desire to help their teens stop harming themselves immediately and can easily become exasperated when their child chooses to cut.

It can be helpful to seek out a therapist who specializes in self-harm. The most effective type of therapy for this issue is called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). DBT takes place in a group setting where teens learn to cope with their extreme emotions in healthy ways. DBT is most effective when done in conjunction with individual psychotherapy and/or family counseling.



TreeHouse mentors help teens find healthy ways to manage their emotions while providing caring support and accountability. Our programs are designed to help teens break out of harmful behaviors through skills teaching, accountability, peer support and fun activities. 

I have been clean from cutting because of TreeHouse’s help!