Suicide is the third leading cause of death in kids 10 to 18 years old. In this article we are going to explore a teen behavior that can result in suicide and that is cutting. This is a very common behavior among teenagers and many parents know little about it. Cutting is usually used as a method to deal with emotions, but it can lead to permanent damage or suicide, if the teen is not aware of what they are doing.
Cutting is any behavior which results in self-mutilating. Therefore it could be cutting oneself, scratching, burning, erasing ones own skin etc. Anything that results in damaging ones own body. It is also a behavior that is on the rise in the teenage population.
A recent study by Rhode Island hospital found that 46% of high school students admit to engaging in some form of cutting over the past year and 20% of college students admitted to it. ABC news found that 1 in 12 teens engage in cutting. Girls are more likely to cut than boys, but boys still do cut. I have both teenage boys and girls admitting to some form of cutting. The CDC has found between 20% and 30% of teenagers engage in some form of cutting or self-mutilating behavior. One of the major treatment centers for cutting has found 1 out of 5 girls engage in cutting and for boys the statistic is one out of 7 engage in cutting. Most studies, including the CDC, report the average age for a teenager to engage in cutting or self-mutilating behavior is 14 years old. Furthermore, research studies indicate without treatment, 40% of teenagers who cut or self-mutilate will continue the behavior as an adult. This is a very serious condition and research is showing it is increasing every year. One study showed 30% of teenagers cut. Think about how many teenagers that is in reality. Also then consider without treatment most of that 30% will continue the behavior as adults. We need to address this issue.
You may ask, why would someone cut themselves? Most teens engage in self-mutilating behavior because they find it easier to deal with the physical pain than the emotional pain they are experiencing. Some teens prefer just to cut and that helps release the pain and others need to watch the blood or watch the act of cutting or erasing as a way to deal with the pain.
This behavior is very common now among teenagers. Most teens have engaged in one form of self-mutilating behavior as a way to deal with their feelings.
What they do not think about when they are engaging in this behavior is the risk. If they cut too deep or in the wrong area they can cut a major artery and bleed to death. They can cut a nerve or tendon and lose control over their arm or leg. The site they cut or erase can become severely infected and lead to a number of medical issues. Most teens who cut are not suicidal but they are looking for a way to cope with their emotional pain.
Signs that your teen may be engaging in cutting are personality changes, where long sleeves or not allowing anyone to see their body. They often cut on their stomachs, chests or thighs because it is easier to hide. Picking at scabs is another sign. Changes in their appetites and sleeping pattern. Also a tendency to withdraw from family and friends. They also have a tendency to act depressed.
If you feel your teen is cutting, don’t be afraid to ask. However, if you do ask don’t act shocked or like they are doing something bizarre. Teens who cut are very afraid of being shamed. If you act like you cannot cope with their behavior they will not tell you.
Obviously if your teen is cutting there are emotional issues going on. The first thing to do is to have them examined by their pedestrian. You want to make sure there are no infections or damage that needs medical attention. The next step is to have them see a therapist who specializes in teenagers and especially one who specializes in cutting. Again if the therapist acts uncomfortable with the subject the teen will not talk. The good news is that with appropriate care most teens learn how to deal with their emotions in a healthy manner and stop cutting.
Dr. Michael Rubino has over 18 years experience working with teens and specializes in cutting and self-mutilating behavior. For more information about Dr Rubino and his private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com