Teens engage in cutting, self-injury to relieve distress
Everybody experiences some form of stress in their life. Stress may be caused by trying to meet a work or school deadline, relationship issues or financial worries. Stress can feel different for different people; some may feel sad or anxious while others may feel anger or frustration. Some people will naturally feel higher levels of stress than others and may cope with stress in different ways.
The way someone deals with stress may depend on a person’s biological makeup or a traumatic experience at a young age. Some people may go to the gym to exercise to help relieve stress while others may turn to drugs or alcohol. One way many teens deal with stress is by engaging in self-injury.
Self injury can include using a hot cigarette lighter to scorch the flesh or taking an eraser and vigorously rubbing the skin off their body. The most common way teens self injure is by taking a sharp object such as a razor blade or knife and cutting into their flesh. Teens who engage in cutting are very good at hiding the physical scars. Some may always wear long sleeved shirts or cover the scars with wrist bands and bracelets or they may cut in areas of their body that are usually always covered by clothing, such as the upper thigh.
Most teens say they engage in cutting to soothe or relieve severe distress. Psychologists have found that cutting is a quick fix to get rid of bad feelings and, just like drugs and alcohol, can become addictive. Some mental health professionals compare cutting to a “high” people experience during exercise when “feel-good” endorphins are released. A teen may become psychologically addicted to this “high” and, just like drug or alcohol addiction, may engage in riskier self injury to obtain that “high.” Because a teen needs to feel that “high,” he or she may accidentally cut too deep and may not be able to stop the bleeding and they may risk a serious infection.
Cutting to get rid of bad feelings is not necessarily a suicide attempt and is almost the opposite. Instead of wanting to end their lives, cutters are seeking a way to get through the day without feeling badly. However, cutting should be taken just as seriously as suicide. Parents need to maintain open communication with their teens and be a support system to help their teens deal with stress. If your teen is engaging in cutting or any other form of self injury, seek assistance from a mental health professional and help keep our kids safe.
Keeping Our Kids Safe is brought to you the Delaware Police Department and School Resource Officer Rod Glazer.