Cutting is a form of self-injury individuals begin engaging in as a response or coping strategy to overwhelming emotional distress.
It is obviously a harmful coping mechanism, as the pain caused by cutting is what allows individuals to feel relief from the emotional turmoil they are experiencing.
While cutting isn’t necessarily a sign of suicidal behavior, it can be extremely serious because of risk of infection, cutting too deep and scarring.
Because cutting is such a dangerous behavior, it is important for parents to be aware of signs that their child or teenager may be engaging in it.
Wearing long sleeves all the time, even in the summer, spending long periods of time their room with the door closed, and social withdrawal can all be signs of the behavior.
While finding out that their child or teen has been cutting can be highly disturbing for parents, it is important that they resist reacting in an angry or extremely upset manner, as this can cause the child to close up about the issue.
Instead, parents should remain calm and open up communication with their child, by asking non-accusatory questions, such as “I’d like to understand more about what’s going on/why you have been cutting. Can we talk about this?”
It is also recommended for parents to enlist the help of a medical professional, such as their primary care doctor or a behavioral health specialist.
Parents in the community who suspect their child may be cutting can contact Cone Health Center for Children, as it has an exceptional team of pediatricians, adolescent medicine specialists and other related healthcare professionals dedicated to caring for children and adolescents who are having difficulty coping with emotional issues.
Dr. Martha Perry is an adolescent medicine specialist and the medical director of Cone Health Center for Children.
Dr. Perry received her Doctor of Medicine from University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1999.
She completed her residency in pediatrics at Boston Medical Center and Boston Children’s Hospital in 2002, and a fellowship in adolescent medicine at University of California, San Francisco and Children's Hospital Boston in 2006.