Understanding Teens and Cutting (Part 2)

DepressionToday we’re continuing our difficult discussion about teens and cutting. While it can be baffling to many outsiders, it’s essential to understand the true intention and the way to move forward if your loved one is engaging in this kind of self-harm. Check out our first post to learn about cutting’s relationship with suicide, and the reasoning behind this confusing behavior.

3: It Signals Emotional Illiteracy

If a teen is using cutting in order to regulate his or her own emotions, it’s a sign that they need to learn more about emotional coping strategies. The phrase “emotional illiteracy” has been used to describe patients who cut. This means that teens are uneducated about how to recognize, define, and deal with emotions – especially negative ones. External pressures mount, and internal resilience and emotional health are unable to counterbalance them. Usually, we see cutting behavior in teens who want to please others, and have learned to be ashamed of negative emotions, like sadness, anger, depression, loneliness, etc. Cutting can also be a sign of severe traumatic events that happened in the past and can prove too much for teens to deal with.

Because patients who cut are often unable to define their own emotional state, and unable to come up with a healthy plan to deal with it, they need professional help and counseling to learn about what’s going on in their own emotional climate.

4: Cutting Calls for Professional Help

The discussion about cutting can go wrong so easily. First of all, shock and blame from parents or concerned friends and adults can cause teens to clam up, lash out, and feel scared, isolated, and ashamed. On the other hand, pretending like cutting is no big deal is also a major mistake. It’s important to acknowledge the danger and problem that it presents, and find a solution.

Many people believe that cutting is simply a teenage phase that will go away with time. It’s true that it’s most common in teens, but it can persist throughout someone’s life. Even if someone seems to “grow out” of cutting, it could simply be because they’ve found other unhealthy ways to deal with emotional pain. Cutting is a secondary problem; not a primary symptom. Only when the underlying cause of cutting is addressed and solved will harmful behaviors in any form end.

It’s important not to misunderstand cutting and confuse it with suicide attempts. Reach out to a professional who understands teen issues and cutting for what it is, instead of treating a completely different problem.

Because we work with teens who have undergone severe emotional problems, and often trauma, we have experience understanding and treating the underlying cause of cutting and other self-harmful behavior. Contact us to see how we can help understand and solve the problem.

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