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Parenting Teens

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Cut That Out:  Coping with Cutting

Cutting describes the self-destructive behavior involving teens deliberately cutting themselves, usually on the arms or legs.  The cuts can range in depth from mere scratches to deep cuts requiring stitches.  Some teens even go as far as to carve words into their skin in such a way as to permanently leave scars.  These words are often profane or racially inflammatory and may be considered by some to be a form of self-tattooing.

Teens cut for a variety of reasons.  For some it is a form of self-punishment in which they harm themselves because they feel so bad about themselves.  For others it is a form of stress relief.  Some teens report that seeing their own blood calms them and makes them feel in control.  For a small number of teens, cutting is an unhealthy method of getting attention from their parents and peers.  These  teens tend to only cut themselves lightly, and always in a place that other people can see.

If you suspect that your teen is cutting, it is important that your get him help as soon as possible,  Make an appointment with your family physician right away so that he can evaluate the physical damage that is being done and refer you to a therapist who can work with your teen to help him stop.  If your teen has made cuts that are so deep that there is serious bleeding, take him to the emergency room and insist that he receive a psychological evaluation in addition to stitches.

Unfortunately, cutting can be very difficult to stop.  Even after years of therapy, someone who has cut themselves in the past may start again when under stress.  That is why it is so important to intervene before your teen does permanent damage to himself.

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