In working with adolescents and families for a number of years, I have seen the various looks of a parent – the angry look, the disgusted look, the frustrated look, the look of disdain and disbelief. By far, the most concerning has been the look of fear and utter helplessness that parents experience when they find out their child is self harming. With many parents having little experience or information about this, they often react out of fear and protection, as well as relying on stereotypes and less-than-reliable resources to give them direction during this often frightening time.
Self Harm is a clinical term that covers many different kinds of self injury. Self Injury can start out as simply as scratching one’s arm or legs. Some individuals may remove the small eraser at the end of a # 2 pencil, and push the round metal piece together to then be used as a sharp instrument. Others begin their self injury using the blade from a pencil sharpener. This can lead to using a razor, a kitchen knife, or an exacto-knife. Many individuals can find many creative ways to develop, make or use every day objects to self injure. These everyday objects are hard to eliminate from anyone’s life and make the tool used to self injure regularly accessible and easy to use.
One of the most puzzling looks of a parent often includes the word “WHY?” For those who have no experience with this, understanding self injury seems impossible. However, there are some basic concepts that may help you to understand, even if you do NOT agree with the behaviors. Self injury can be addictive. When self-injury is repeated it can become addictive. And many times, I see this lead to self injury developing a life of its’ own.
The most common form of self-injury is cutting or burning oneself. Other forms of self injury include: hair pulling, face picking, self-hitting, head banging, severe skin scratching, bone breaking, or interfering with wound healing. Any of these behaviors can become addictive for the individual due to the the emotional release that occurs with the self injury. The individual’s inability to emotionally regulate then leads to their repetitive pattern of self injury as it becomes a way to self regulate. The perpetuating cycle is often very difficult to break without professional help.
If you have someone you love who is self harming, or simply want more information, there are a number of reliable and safe resources out there. Below I have listed two quick links for you to connect to and in future posts, I will talk more about warning signs and ways to handle the initial discovery and what to do next. Information is key and keeping the communication loving and open is crucial.
And as always, if you need professional help, we are here for you – please contact our Southlake Office at 704-896-7776 or go to our website – www.southlakecounseling.com