Jump to Questions

This topic is adapted from the Teen Expert Josh Shipp YouTube channel.

Cutting is becoming increasingly common with teens. Oftentimes, parents don’t know how to approach this topic with their teen. It is important to come into that conversation with knowledge on why teens cut and how you can help.

[Related: Signs That Your Teen Might Be Suicidal]

[Related: Helping Teens Struggling with Suicidal Thoughts]

Warning Signs that Your Teen Is Cutting

One of the first warning signs that your teen is cutting is they intentionally hide certain parts of their body. This may be things like wearing a long sleeve shirt on a hot day, or always holding their arms close to their body. Another thing to look for is cuts or scars. You should also be aware of the people your child hangs out with. If you notice that their friends have scars or cuts, there is a pretty big chance that your child may also be self-harming.

What Is Cutting?

Cutting is actually an addiction. It releases endorphins in the brain causing a euphoric high, similar to a “runner’s high.” The problem with this high is that it only lasts 90-120 seconds, and then feelings of guilt and shame return. Once this happens, your child will feel the need to cut again and again in order to return to that euphoric feeling.

People Who Cut are Not Trying to Kill Themselves

This is a common misconception about those who self-injure. Many people think that the goal of self-harm is to commit suicide, but that’s not always the case. Self-harm is often used as a coping mechanism people use to survive. It channels emotional pain into physical pain and provides a sense of control. It is important to note that if a child is self-injuring, they are struggling with something. People don’t self-injure just because they are sad. Self-injury is a serious issue that arises when a person is severely depressed and searching for ways to cope.

Cutting Isn’t the Only Form of Self-Injury

While cutting may seem like the most common form of self-injury, it is not the only form. Eating disorders also fall under the umbrella of self-harm. Both of these issues arise from negative internal self-talk. This self-talk warps their body image and how they view themselves. If your child is taking part in one of these forms of self-injury, then there is a high chance the other could develop or already has.

What Can Parents Do to Help?

The first way you can help is by not overreacting. Your child isn’t crazy and most likely not suicidal. The real problem is that their coping mechanism comes with too many downsides.

Secondly, ask your child directly, in a caring manner, if they are cutting. You’ll know as soon as they answer if they are.

Another important thing to ask your child is what is hurting them emotionally. Remember, cutting is a release from emotional pain and there is always an underlying issue.

Lastly, get your child into therapy. Therapy has been found to be the most effective treatment for self-injury. What you don’t talk out, you act out. So, it’s important to get your child talking. A therapist will help your child to sort out the emotional pain they are feeling and find a healthier way for them to handle that pain.

[Related: Helping Teens with Depression]

Having knowledge on a sensitive topic such is important. It is important to be aware of your child’s behaviors. If you think your teen is struggling with cutting, take action. Get them the help and attention they need.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. What are the warning signs that your teen is cutting? Have you noticed these warning signs with your teen? Have you noticed any warning signs not mentioned in this video?
  4. Why do you think this is such a hard topic to approach with teens?
  5. What are some ways that you could initiate this conversation with your teen?
  6. Why do you think it’s so important to not overreact when approaching this topic with your teen?
  7. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.