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Is Your Teen Cutting?

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Here are the warning signs.

The "Today" show recently explored the dangers of cutting or self mutilation. This is an issue that many teens -- and parents -- deal with. In fact, in a recent poll, 51% of Seventeen readers say they have intentionally hurt themselves.

"Cutting is a very serious problem and indicates deep emotional pain in a child, usually a teen or tween," says Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, MD, FAAP, is the CEO and Chief Editor of Pediatrics Now. "Most times the cutting has been going on for a very long time before a friend alerts a parent to it or a parent discovers it by accident. Cutting needs immediate attention -- not only to care for the cuts, but to make sure the kids are emotionally safe and not about to inflict more serious self-harm. In other words, most kids who cut need an emergency evaluation to be sure they are not suicidal. If you discover your child is cutting, contact your pediatrician immediately to discuss whether an outpatient evaluation or emergency ER evaluation is needed."

What are the warning signs?

* Wearing of pants and long sleeves in warm weather
* The appearance of lighters, razors, or sharp objects that one would not expect among a person's belongings
* Low self-esteem
* Difficulty handling feelings
* Relationship problems
* Poor functioning at work, school, or home

How can you help?
"A situation like this takes time to develop; it will not go away quickly and it will not go away on its own. Your daughter needs your help and professional help," says family counselor Rosanne Tobey, LPC, is a New Jersey-based therapist who specializes in individual, couples and family therapy.

  • Seek out a counselor that specializes in cutting. Your pediatrician can make a referral, but do your own research, too.
  • Spend more quality time with her and pay direct attention to her. Let her know you care.
  • Educate yourself about cutting and self-injurious behavior.
  • Act swiftly.
  • Make the arrangements to provide the help and support that it will take to ease your daughter's pain and help her learn a better way to cope.

"My daughter started cutting when she was 14 after her Dad and I got divorced. I put her in counseling immediately after I found out. It's very hard for a mother to admit and acknowledge that her daughter is cutting herself, but ignoring the signs could cost your kid her life," warns Heidi, mom of two.

Has your teen cut before? How did you handle it?


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