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Adolescent Self-Harm Treatment

Note to readers: this page discusses self-harm in ways that may be triggering or challenging for some readers.

a teen covers their face while talking to a therapist during self harm treatmentSelf-harm means intentionally hurting oneself. It’s also known as self-mutilation, self-abuse, or non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). There are several reasons why a teenager might engage in self-harm, including to relieve emotional pain or distress. Whatever the reason, if a child that one loves and cares for feels so bad that they are harming themselves, it’s a cry for help. There is hope with self-harm treatment.

The parents or caregivers of teens who self-mutilate often feel shocked, confused, sad, angry, and helpless in the face of such behavior. They can see that their child needs help but might not know where to seek such support. Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness can help your teen find other ways to cope and get to the root cause of self-harming behaviors—contact 855.940.6229 to learn more about our mental health treatment for adolescents.

What Is Self-Harm?

Self-harm is an act of deliberately inflicting harm on one’s own body as a way to cope with emotional distress or feelings of emptiness. Self-harm can take many forms, such as cutting, burning, or even purposefully preventing wounds from healing. It’s crucial to understand that it is not an attempt to commit suicide but rather a harmful coping mechanism used by an individual to manage overwhelming emotional pain.

Self-Harm in Adolescents: Emotional Distress

Most teens who self-harm are seeking quick relief from overwhelming emotional distress. The NSSI behavior is a dysfunctional coping mechanism to deal with difficult emotions. While self-harm is never a permanent solution, it may be experienced as providing temporary psychological and physiological relief from a teen’s emotional suffering.

The source or variety of emotional pain that an adolescent is dealing with may include:

  • Tension, anxiety, and suffering from painful emotions like anger, grief, guilt, shame, or self-loathing
  • Self-punishment for perceived wrongdoings or faults
  • Emotional numbness or detachment
  • Overwhelmed by school and family responsibilities, pressured and rushed through adolescence
  • Using self-harm for emotional control
  • Using self-injury as a distraction from challenging emotions or situations
  • Feeling a lack of control or hopelessness in some areas of life

At Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness, we understand the complex emotions leading to self-harm in teens and offer compassionate, effective treatment to help young people build healthier coping mechanisms and brighter futures.

Self-Harm & Endorphin Release

How can inflicting physical pain upon oneself relieve emotional pain? This is a question that parents and caregivers of teens who self-harm often ask.

In addition to the psychological mechanisms described above, there is also a physiological reason why self-injuring behavior can provide relief. This physiological mechanism has to do with the so-called endorphin effect.

A rapid burst of endorphins—an endorphin “high”—can:

  • Reduce physical pain and discomfort
  • Alleviate emotional stress and anxiety
  • Enhance mood
  • Increase feelings of pleasure
  • Boost self-esteem

When a teenager engages in self-harm, such as cutting or burning themselves, it triggers the release of endorphins into their bloodstream. This leads to a numbing or pleasurable sensation akin to the effects of drug addiction. While this provides temporary relief from emotional distress, it fails to address the underlying cause of their suffering. Consequently, the behavior becomes a recurring pattern.

Alternatives to Self-Harm

Healthier ways to release endorphins include:

  • Exercising
  • Getting a massage
  • Trying acupuncture
  • Listening to music
  • Enjoying dark chocolate
  • Laughing
  • Dancing
  • Meditating

Activities such as these can increase a teen’s overall well-being and self-confidence. As a result, their urge to self-harm may naturally decrease.

Signs That a Teen May Be Self-Harming

Since teenagers tend to engage in self-harming behaviors secretly or with their friends, their parents, teachers, and other caregivers may not be aware of this problem. There are, however, certain red flags—signs that a teen may be self-harming. Indications that an adolescent may be self-injuring include:

  • Cut or burn marks on the teen’s body, as observed by a teacher, physician, or parent
  • Unexplained wounds on the teen’s body, which they explain as the result of an accident
  • Hidden sharp objects in the teen’s bedroom
  • Discovering blood stains on bedding, clothing, towels, or tissues
  • Difficulties with relationships
  • Increasing isolation

At Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness, we offer a comprehensive self-harm treatment program aimed at understanding the underlying causes of this behavior and providing the support your teen needs to overcome it.

Self-Harm Treatment

Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness provides compassionate and comprehensive self-harm treatment for teens. Our team of caring professionals understands that self-harm is often a sign of deeper emotional issues. Through individualized treatment plans, we aim to help adolescents better understand and manage their emotions, leading to healthier coping mechanisms and overall well-being. Our approach includes:

  • Individual therapy sessions with a licensed mental health professional
  • Group therapy focusing on emotional regulation and coping skills
  • Psychoeducation for parents or guardians regarding self-harm behaviors and how to support their teen
  • Collaborative treatment that addresses any underlying mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety

If you notice any of the signs mentioned above, reaching out for help and seeking professional support is crucial.

Contact Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness for Teen Self-Harm Treatment

Don’t let your teen struggle with self-harm alone. Contact 855.940.6229 to learn more about our self-harm treatment program and how we can support your family. Let’s work together towards a brighter future for your adolescent.