Cutting refers to using a sharp object such as a razor blade or a knife to cut into the skin. This form of self-harm behavior is used to relieve underlying stress and anxiety in individuals who feel they have no other way to escape from their feelings. Teenagers who engage in cutting may be suffering from a mental illness such as depression or anxiety or may also be engaging in disordered eating habits or eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, binge eating and bulimia nervosa. If you have seen signs and symptoms that your teenager is cutting then it is important to take the proper precautions to talk to you teenager and seek professional help.

Seek outpatient mental health treatment

Although cutting itself is not considered a mental illness, this dangerous behavior is a reflection of other underlying mental illnesses or untreated past traumas. Seeking therapy is a beneficial and safe approach for your teenager who is cutting and a therapist can work to uncover the underlying reasons why your teenager in engaging in self-harm behaviors. In order for therapy to be productive, your teenager must be willing to be involved in treatment and must feel comfortable with their therapist. Sometimes it may take speaking with a couple of different therapists before your son or daughter finds the right one. Your primary care doctor, your medical insurance provider, a you teenager’s school counselor or teach should be able to refer you to a therapist within your community. You can also ask around and research on the Internet for child and adolescent therapists who have experience treating self-harm behavior.  Once you and your teenager have established a healthy relationship with a therapist it is important to stay open minded and be patient as therapy can sometimes take months to work. Progress may be slow but every positive milestone deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated.

Type of therapy for treating cutting: cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy specifically concentrates on patterns of abnormal thinking and distorted beliefs that are the underlying causes for irrational emotions and thought patterns that can lead to mental illness. If your teenager is cutting they are most likely experiencing negative thoughts that are driving them to cut. CBT works to recognize these negative thoughts and to establish reasoning as to why these thoughts are occurring and then finally transforming negative thoughts into positive thoughts that can lead to healthy behaviors.

The key concept for this type of therapy approach lies within the idea that thoughts and feelings are directly related to behavior and therefore gaining control of one’s thoughts and emotions can better dictate their behavior. Negative thoughts are often ingrained in us since early childhood and overtime they become automatic. Automatic thoughts are emotion-driven thoughts that enter the mind without individuals being fully aware of them. These automatic thoughts can become relatively fixed overtime and as a result turn into dysfunctional behaviors.

What you can do as a parent to support your child during therapy

Although cognitive behavior therapy is the first-line treatment approach to cutting, family therapy can also help to resolve underlying issues within the family that may have driven your teenager to cut. Maybe your teenager feels neglected or they are picking up unhealthy vibes from you marriage? Family therapy can also help the parents to learn tools to better serve their teenager while in therapy. Other tools that parents can practice while their teenager is undergoing therapy to is research community support groups. Support groups are a great way to connect with others and can be a way to seek help and advice once the therapy sessions has subsided. It is also important to stay present with you teenager. Ask them about their day and take interest in their life without pushing boundaries or being overbearing. Once you teenager understands you are there to solely support them and not punish or judge them, they will be more inclined to share with you about what they are going through.