While it’s difficult for a parent to imagine their teenage girl cutting herself on purpose, this type of self-injury is becoming alarmingly popular, and not just among depressed girls. Even girls who appear happy and well-rounded are engaging in cutting! Understanding why girls engage in this behavior and knowing the signs can help parents put a stop to this dangerous, potentially life-threatening new trend.
Why do girls engage in cutting?
Although the trend isn’t limited to teenage girls, they do seem to be the most susceptible to cutting. While it’s impossible to know the motivation behind every cutter, psychologists do believe there are several main reasons that girls engage in this type of self-injury. These include:
- Coping with emotional pain. Girls who suffer from extreme emotional pain often engage in cutting as a way to relieve the pressure. Basically, in their eyes, if they can hurt on the outside, maybe they won’t hurt so much on the inside.
- A way to exert control. Teenagers have very little control over their environment. Parents fight or divorce, bullies attack them physically and emotionally, and people come or go from their lives. While many teens are able to roll with life’s challenges easily, or find alternative ways to let off steam, some girls engage in cutting as a way of exerting control. In their eyes, they can’t control what goes on around them, but they can control what they do to their bodies.
- A symptom of a deeper psychological condition. Cutting is more common in girls suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
- Attention-seeking. In some cases, cutting is a way to gain the much-needed attention from an authority figure. Girls who cut in obvious places may be crying out for help.
- Peer pressure. If your daughter is spending time with other girls who cut, she may feel like she needs to engage in the behavior to keep up with her friends, even if she doesn’t have emotional issues or psychological conditions. Peer pressure is a very powerful influence on teen girls. In fact, Medical News Today reports that many teens who cut don’t have any underlying reason other than the fact that their friends said it feels good.
Signs that your daughter may be cutting
Aside from the obvious: cuts and scrapes on the skin, there are a few other signs that your child may be cutting.
- Wearing long clothes, even in the summer. If your teen suddenly starts wearing long sleeves and pants, even in the warm weather, she may be engaging in cutting. This is one of the first signs that parents notice.
- Frequent “accidents.” Many teens that cut claim that they fell down, the cat or dog scratched them, or some other type of accident occurred. If these accidents seem to be happening regularly, it’s time to sit down and talk.
- Sharp objects kept in their room. Keep an eye out for knives, safety pins, and other sharp objects that can be used for cutting or scraping the skin.
- Unexplained scars.
What to do if your daughter is cutting
If you discover or suspect that your daughter is cutting, seek immediate psychological help. This is not something that you can deal with on your own. Don’t assume it’s a phase, because even if it, that phase can have deadly consequences. Cutting can lead to disfigurement, infection, and excessive bleeding even to the point of death. Consult with your family doctor to find the best course of action the moment you discover the behavior.