Self-harm, or inflicting physical harm onto one’s body to ease emotional distress, is not uncommon in kids and teens.
In fact, according to clinical psychologist Deborah Serani, PsyD, in her book Depression and Your Child: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers, about 15 percent of kids and teens engage in self-harm.
There are many forms of self-harm, including cutting, scratching, hitting and burning. Many kids and teens who self-harm also struggle with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, physical abuse or other serious concerns or psychological disorders.
These kids “don’t know how to verbalize their feelings, and instead, act them out by self-injuring,” Serani writes. Kids might self-harm to soothe deep sadness or other overwhelming emotions. They might do it to express self-loathing or shame. They might do it to express negative thoughts they can’t articulate. They might do it because they feel helpless.