Teen self-harm behaviors can be hard to understand or deal with for parents, which is why self-harm treatment programs exist. These behaviors are coping mechanisms teens have to release intense emotions, such as anger, frustration, neglect, pain, or sadness. After the harmful act, a teen experiences mental and emotional relief, although it quickly leads to guilt, shame, or another negative emotion. In other words, self-harm can be due to mental health or other co-occurring issues.
However, how do you talk to your teen about self-harm? While talking about it or resorting to typical mental health treatment options like going to therapy sessions may help, treatment programs run by professionals could be the better choice. Contact Foothills at Red Oak Recovery by calling 866.300.5275 or reaching out to our team online to find out more about our mental health programs.
What Is Teen Self-Harm?
Self-harm is also known as nonsuicidal self-injury disorder. It’s characterized by purposeful actions of causing physical harm to oneself without the intention of committing suicide – although, as mentioned above, self-harm can eventually lead to suicide attempts.
Burning and cutting are two of the most common types of self-harm behavior. Nonsuicidal self-injury disorder is more common in adolescents and teenagers due to severe underlying emotional pain combined with a lack of healthy coping skills. Self-harm is an increasingly pervasive symptom of emotional distress among young girls, although young boys can also have nonsuicidal self-injury disorder.
Research has shown that many teens that have self-harm behaviors have a history of emotional, physical, or even sexual abuse. Some may also be dealing with neglect or trauma, which can cause strong feelings of insecurity, worry, or anger. More worrying is that about 70 percent of teens in the US with self-harm behaviors have made at least one suicide attempt, and more than 50 percent have made multiple attempts.
As with any problem afflicting troubled teens, parents who are talking to them about self-harm should focus on why they’re doing it, even if the subject is uncomfortable. Understanding the “why” behind their self-harm behaviors is a critical step for understanding how to treat nonsuicidal self-injury disorder, as well as the issues that drive them. When talking to your teen about self-harm, you might bring up being worried about their health and safety. In such cases, you can suggest going to therapy or getting admitted into a treatment program.
What Are Common Co-occurring Issues With Teen Self-Harm?
Another reason parents should engage their teens in conversation about their self-harm behaviors is that they often occur with other mental health disorders that also need treating, such as:
When this happens, a treatment program run by professionals becomes even more of a good idea. Few options will be able to deal with a dual diagnosis that involved nonsuicidal self-injury disorder.
Dual diagnosis can also be more dangerous for teens. For example, if they have both self-harm and addictive behaviors, their substance use may make them uncoordinated or slow. This inhibition can turn self-harm behavior truly harmful. A teen may cut their skin too deep or burn their skin too much.
What to Expect From Self-Harm Treatment Program
In some cases, a teen may want to go through a self-harm treatment program. After talking to them, you may find that they want to get better but just don’t know how to do it. If they’re resistant to the idea of treatment, you may have to work up to the idea over time. For instance, you can go with them to therapy to discuss the idea with a professional.
To give up self-harm behavior, teen clients need to substitute other healthy behaviors. These can provide a similar emotional or mental release and can be equally soothing. The underlying reason for nonsuicidal self-injury disorder must also be addressed for the unhealthy behavior to stop. Your teen and the whole family must be ready to recognize and talk about past trauma. Your teen’s co-occurring condition must also be dealt with similarly.
Learn More About Foothills at Red Oak Recovery
Ready to talk to your teen about self-harm plus other co-occurring issues and then go through mental health treatment options? Contact Foothills at Red Oak Recovery. Call 866.300.5275 or reach out to our team online.