Contrary to popular belief, the act of self-harm known as cutting isn’t necessarily a prelude to a suicide attempt. However, it should be taken seriously.
“Typically children are using it as a coping mechanism for emotional pain. It provides a sense of control,” said Christi Cloyd, LIMHP, LADC, a CHI Health psychotherapist and chemical dependence counselor.
Cutting can also be addictive because it releases endorphins – similar to a runner’s high.
“After cutting, they get this endorphin dump for 90 to 120 seconds, but then a tidal wave of guilt and shame usually comes afterwards, which might prompt them to cut again,” Cloyd said.
If you suspect your child is cutting, don’t overreact or try to control the behavior. Ask your child – in a direct and caring way – if they are cutting. If they are, ask what is hurting them emotionally.
Then seek professional help.
“They need a trained professional who is experienced in dealing with self-harm to help them learn to cope with emotions in a more adaptive way,” Cloyd said.