Self-harm is not a new problem, but in recent times more and more children, adolescents and young people are turning to them as a way to channel their negative emotions. It is popularly known as “cutting” since it consists of making small cuts on the arms, forearms, abdomen, thighs and legs.
In fact, the worst thing about this practice is that it tends to occur silently, below the parents’ radar, since children and adolescents often hide injuries under clothing, so it is essential to keep an eye out for other less obvious signs that reveal this harmful practice.
Why do children injure themselves? The psychological relief that cutting represents
In most cases, children or teens cut themselves when they feel sad, upset, anxious, stressed, helpless, or worried. It is important to understand that it is a behavior through which they try to “exorcise” the problems, therefore it is an expression of an emotional difficulty that must be resolved.
In some cases, behind the cutting is a situation of sexual or emotional abuse, a post-traumatic stress disorder, a case of bullying or a situation of domestic violence. In other cases, it can appear after the divorce of the parents, the death of a loved one or even due to a love break in adolescence. It can also be the result of less violent or dramatic situations, such as when children or adolescents feel too much pressure to achieve good school grades.
Communication or sexual identity problems can also be found at the base of these self-inflicted injuries, as well as a picture of depression or anxiety. However, cutting is not always the result of an emotional problem, sometimes children or adolescents practice it to imitate their friends and join the group. Over time, those cuts become his way of dealing with conflict.
In fact, cutting allows them to alleviate negative emotions because it restores the feeling of control to the child or adolescent, allowing them to escape, even for a while, from problems that they do not know how to solve.
Keep in mind that cuts in the skin have a calming action because they activate the release of endorphins, neuropeptides that minimize pain and quickly generate a feeling of well-being. In this way, the pain stops being emotional to become a physical discomfort, which can be satisfactory as it is easier to manage. The problem is that the physical pain disappears after a while and the emotional pain returns, which makes that child or adolescent have to resort to injuries again to feel better.
Cutting Signs Parents Should Watch Out For
There are different ways to injure yourself. Some children or adolescents cut their skin with a blade, but others prick themselves with needles or pins, or have small burns. Scratches and bites are another way to hurt yourself.
These are generally shallow incisions, in parts of the body that can later be covered with clothing, so one of the first signs that there is a problem is that the child or adolescent changes their way of dressing and begins to choose clothes long even in summer or wear a lot of bangles and bracelets that allow you to hide injuries.
Obviously, the appearance of cuts, scratches or burns in any area of the body is also another alarm signal, as well as small blood stains on clothing, towels or bedding. The change in mood, marked by irritability, is another sign of emotional problems.
If parents suspect that their child is injuring himself, it is important that they give him confidence so that he tells them what is happening to him and, if necessary, that they make an appointment with a psychologist who can help him manage the problems more assertively and without being done hurt.