Teen Anxiety and Self-Harming Behaviors – What You Should Know and How You Can Help
Discovering your teenager has been engaging in self-harming behaviors can be shocking and disheartening, to say the least.
Rather than approach the situation head-on, however, you’ll produce better results if you take the time to wrap your own mind around this serious problem.
For instance, self-harming behaviors are anything but skin-deep. They cut clear to the core of your teen and you can help them uncover why they’re hurting so much.
First, here’s what you need to know about cutting, mutilation, burning, and other self-harming behaviors.
Understand the Role of Anxiety
To put it plainly, anxiety lies at the heart of self-harming behaviors. When your teen develops anxiety, it means that they struggle with finding healthy coping strategies.
Effectively, they have trouble figuring out how to deal with the way they feel. More than likely, that’s because your teen lacks the maturity or emotional skill set to cope with these feelings. When this happens, anxiety takes the wheel.
As you are probably well aware, anxiety can take the form of many physical conditions ranging from sleeplessness to constantly being on edge to fatigue. And, of course, self-harming behaviors make this list as well.
Self-Harming Behaviors Aren’t the Real Culprit
It’s undeniable that self-harming behaviors are unhealthy. Furthermore, for obvious reasons, they’re dangerous. One wrong move and it could mean having a medical emergency on your hands.
Not only are they physically unhealthy, but they’re also mentally unhealthy.
In terms of self-harming behaviors, they are actually a strategy for your teen to cope. Like mentioned before, anxiety lies at the heart of it all. But, the need to cope is the real culprit. When your teen has to resort to a coping mechanism, they lack the inner resources to process the stimulation causing the anxiety in the first place.
Reasons for Needing a Coping Mechanism
One very important thing to understand about self-harming behaviors is that no two people are alike. The reason your teen self-harms could be a totally different reason than why someone else copes in this way.
Like mentioned before, your teen has resorted to this particular coping mechanism because they’re unable to process the stimulus causing them anxiety. A very common cause is that your teen might be hurting emotionally. Unable to cope, they prompt a physical injury to sort of distract from the emotional pain.
There is also an element of control gained from self-harming behaviors. Some teens are seeking attention and self-harm accomplishes this.
But for most, harming themselves “proves” to them that although they might feel out of control in other areas of life, they are in control of their own body. And further still, self-harming releases endorphins, which act as the body’s natural pain-killers. In hurting themselves, they actually feel better because of their body’s chemical reaction.
How You Can Help
Helping your teen stop their self-harming behaviors might sound easier than it is. Ultimately, the goal is to keep them safe. But, you must approach this in stages rather than head-on.
As a parent, your job is to love, accept, and make sure they know you’re in their corner. Encourage them to share what they’re feeling with you or a professional. Then, validate those feelings and accept them as real and important to you.
By talking with your teen, observing their patterns, and identifying their anxiety triggers, you can help them. Specifically, you can help them to find a better way to process the things that serve as their anxiety triggers.
If you are having difficulty helping your teen cope with their self-harming behaviors, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Together we can approach the situation with care and delicacy so that everyone finds the reprieve they need.
Read more about the treatment I provide teens and their families.