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How can I help my teenage daughter stop cutting herself?

Seek professional help. Adolescence isn’t an easy time for teens or their parents. It is important for teens to have safe outlets to express their feelings and concerns. The worst thing we can do is treat the teen as though they don’t have a problem when they do. Teen mental and emotional wellbeing is important and should be taken seriously.

Know the warning signs:

  • Many cuts/burns on the wrists, arms, legs, back, hips, or stomach
  • Wearing baggy or loose clothes (e.g., wearing hoodies or long sleeves during hot days to conceal the wounds)
  • Always making excuses for having cuts, marks or wounds on the body
  • Finding razors, scissors, lighters or knives in strange places (i.e., the nightstand drawer or under the bed)
  • Spending long periods locked in a bedroom or bathroom
  • Isolation and avoiding social situations

Self-harm is a cry for help. People who self-harm may feel that there is no other outlet to express their emotional pain and cope with distress. People who self-harm don’t do it to seek attention; rather they do it to escape the struggles of their everyday world. If you know someone who is engaging in self-injurious behavior reach out to him or her. Let him/her know you care through getting them the help they need.

Janice K. Hillman, MD
Pediatrics
Cutting or “self-injury” is a worrisome behavior that teens can use to say “I am upset, I am in pain, I need help, I am depressed, I am anxious.” It is best to get professional help for the teenager to help understand what the underlying issues are and to help give them more constructive coping behaviors.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.