Self-injurious behavior, such as cutting, is generally more than an attempt to get attention. Teens who cut themselves often report that they do it to stop or escape from intense, unpleasant emotions, such as anxiety or depression. For these teens, the pain of the moment provides a distraction to the overwhelming myriad of confusing thoughts and feelings going on inside of them. In short, they use cutting as a way to cope with psychological stress, because they do not know healthier ways to manage it.
Self-injurious behavior is more common among youth who have been the victim of abuse, but a history of abuse is not always present. Sometimes teens do pick up this behavior from other teens.
If your teen knows of a friend who cuts herself or himself, talk with your teen. Discuss more effective ways to manage intense emotions, such as talking to a friend or trusted adult, exercising, writing, or using art to try to express what is going on inside of them. Keep the lines of communication open with your child, and you will create opportunities to help him or her through the emotionally challenging teen years.