When children or adolescents do things to inflict harm upon themselves, it’s usually a way of coping with intense emotional feelings or situations. Although self-harm isn’t necessarily an attempt at suicide, it does need to be taken seriously by parents and other responsible adults in a child’s life. Self-inflicted injury places someone at a higher risk for attempted suicide if help is not sought.
What Does Self-Harm Look Like?
Physical self-harm can take a number of different forms. Cutting is one way of self-harming that’s done in order to deal with emotional pain, anger and frustrated feelings. Other methods to cause self injury include scratching, burning, hitting, pulling out hair or picking at wounds on the skin.
Some individuals may self-harm by punching objects to the point that knuckles bleed and bruises on the hands occur. Others may hit themselves to the point of bleeding.
Trichotillomania is the medical term for the compulsion to pull hair out, resulting in the creation bald spots, or lack of eyelashes or eyebrows.
Warning Signs of Self-Harm To Watch For
It’s important to keep in mind that children who are harming themselves tend to become very good at hiding the signs of their activities. They may wear clothing or makeup to keep cuts, scars and other signs of self-harm out of sight. When someone else does notice something of concern on a child’s body, the child may dismiss the discovery as an accident that’s occurred.
Some of the more common physical indications that a young person is inflicting self-harm are usually seen on the arms, wrists, head, thighs and chest. These signs include:
- Bald patches on the scalp
- Unexplained scars
- Broken bones
- Having sharp objects in the bedroom or close at hand
- Spending an excess amount of time alone
- Wearing long sleeves or pants on hot days
- Frequent Claims of accidents or mishaps
If you notice someone is wearing a long-sleeved shirt or long pants on hot or even balmy days, this could be an attempt to cover up self injurious behavior.
The Emotional Signs of Possible Self-Harm
Sometimes the symptoms aren’t clear, especially when they are emotional in nature. A child may be self-harming if he or she is often tearful, has low motivation, and is depressed. Withdrawal from social life, a change in eating habits, having low self-esteem, drinking or taking drugs are all signs that may point to self-harm. If physical symptoms present in addition to these emotional signs, help is needed.
If a loved one in your life is exhibiting signs of self-harm, it’s important to seek professional help before the repetitive behavior becomes more dangerous, both physically and psychologically.