Most Effective Treatments for Adolescent Self Harming Behaviors

What are Self-Harming Behaviors?

Self-harm or self-injury means hurting yourself on purpose. One common method is cutting yourself with a knife. But any time someone deliberately hurts herself is classified as self-harm. Some people feel an impulse to burn themselves, pull out hair or pick at wounds to prevent healing. Extreme injuries can result in broken bones.

Hurting yourself—or thinking about hurting yourself—is a sign of emotional distress. These uncomfortable emotions may grow more intense if a person continues to use self-harm as a coping mechanism. Learning other ways to tolerate the mental pain will make you stronger in the long term.

Self-harm also causes feelings of shame. The scars caused by frequent cutting or burning can be permanent. Drinking alcohol or doing drugs while hurting yourself increases the risk of a more severe injury than intended. And it takes time and energy away from other things you value. Skipping classes to change bandages or avoiding social occasions to prevent people from seeing your scars is a sign that your habit is negatively affecting work and relationships.

Parents and pediatricians often have a hard time understanding why teens would cut or do other things to harm themselves. Not surprisingly, cutting is a complex behavioral problem and is often associated with a variety of psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Teens who cut themselves are more likely to have friends who cut themselves, low self-esteem, a history of abuse, and/or thoughts of committing suicide.

Why Do Teenage Boys Resort to Self Harm? 

While it is sometimes seen as attention-seeking behavior, cutting is a way for kids to release tension, relieve feelings of sadness or anger, or distract themselves from their problems.

Of course, any relief is only temporary. While some teens who cut may have a friend who cuts or may have read about it or seen it on TV, most kids who start cutting say that they were not influenced by anyone or anything else and came up with the idea themselves.

Other motivations for why teens may self-injure include:

To reduce anxiety/tension
To reduce sadness and loneliness
To alleviate angry feelings
To punish oneself due to self-hatred
To get help from or show distress to others
To escape feelings of numbness (e.g. to feel something)

What Types of Adolescent Treatments are Effective in Treating Self-Harm?

While traditional therapies such as one-on-one sessions and family therapy with a licensed psychiatric professional can be effective, when it comes to something as serious as self-harm, more intensive treatment options, such as Intensive outpatient, or even residential treatment is more than likely the most reliable choice. 

Intensive outpatient treatment (IOP) / Psychiatric day treatment

While some teens who commit self-harm can be successfully treated with one-on-one therapy, those who experience serious mental health disorders, or have a history of suicidal ideation, more intensive treatment is necessary. 

Three of The Most Common Types of Intensive Treatment: 

  • Intensive outpatient treatment (IOP) / Psychiatric day treatment
  • Residential treatment
  • Inpatient psychiatric treatment

Intensive outpatient treatment 

Intensive outpatient treatment is similar to outpatient treatment in that it is a treatment center where teens attend therapy sessions each week. However, an intensive outpatient facility typically requires teens to visit five times a week whereas regular facilities only require once every two weeks or, at most, once a week. 

While these facilities are more effective than regular therapy sessions, they aren't as intensive as inpatient treatment centers that require self-harming teens to live on the premises where they can receive 24-hour care. 

Residential treatment 

Residential treatment is a non-hospital treatment facility that, in addition to treating mental health-related issues, often treat behavioral disorders commonly found in struggling adolescents. Parents of self-harming teens who struggle with additional behvavioral issues should consider the services of a residential treatment center where all of their child's mental and behavioral health-related problems can be addressed and properly treated. 

These types of facilities require teenage clients to stay from anywhere between 90 days and a full year - depending on the severity of the child's issues and the particular residential treatment facility. 

Inpatient psychiatric treatment

Inpatient psychiatric treatment is one of the most effective types of treatment for teens who solely struggle with self-harming behaviors. Unlike residential treatment, these types of care facilities are considered clinical and are often referred to as psychiatric hospitals. Inpatient treatment typically lasts no more than a few weeks at a time. 

However, these types of treatment centers are only beneficial for teens who suffer from self-harming behaviors and are not equipped to treat other behavioral issues like substance abuse, or other similar out-of-control behaviors. Since most teens who commit self-harm tend to struggle with additional behavioral disorders, parents are most likely better off enlisting the services of a residential treatment facility, like that of Family First Adolescent Services. 

 Family First Adolescent Services Treats Teens Who Suffer From Self-Harming Behaviors