Children who self-harm deliberately injure their bodies in a way that leaves marks or causes damage. It may also be called self-injury, self-mutilation, self-inflicted violence, self-destructive behavior, and self-abuse. Children who self-harm do not want to die. They just want to hurt themselves. Examples of self-harm include:
Children may be trying to:
This sense of relief does not last long. The next time they are faced with intense emotions or emotional numbness, they are likely to self-harm again to escape and feel better. Children who self-harm may be at a higher risk for suicide due to acting on impulse and the danger of certain self-harm behaviors.
The following can help reduce symptoms:
One type of therapy that may help is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). DBT teaches how to manage unbearable situations in a healthy way instead of self-harming. DBT teaches children how to deal with stress, regulate their feelings, and how to validate their feelings. Many mental health centers and therapists provide DBT. The therapist can help your child learn safer, alternative ways to communicate, self-soothe, and cope. Journaling, art therapy, relaxation techniques, and physical exercise may be useful to replace self-harm behaviors.
Here are some things that you should avoid:
The following behaviors could be helpful if your child has self-harmed:
If children threaten to commit suicide, do not leave them alone. Seek help immediately.