For us as adults it is generally difficult under ordinary circumstances to think of cutting oneself. Causing injury to one’s own body is a difficult task. Despite this we hear on TV and read in newspapers reports regarding children and teenagers in particular cutting themselves. This is a horrifying experience for the families of such children and they need to understand as to why the child is indulging in inflicting injury to his or her body.
Teenager kids who indulge in this type of activity of self injury use any sharp edged object to inflict injury. Some children use knife, thumbtack, pen or even finger nails as tools for injuring themselves. In most of the cases they will try to hide the marks of injury to make it difficult for the parents to find it. As such they are able to hide this tendency at least during the initial period. According to a child adolescent psychologist, no types of persons are immune to such tendency. Mostly people who inflict self injury are teen aged females from middle class families. The tendency of inflicting self injury can also start to occur in a child when in early middle school.
Generally those kids who inflict self injury are those with low self esteem. These children may be suffering from eating disorder or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or have tried theses intoxicants at some time. The children are generally impulsive and have the problem of being improperly brought up due to negligence of the parents who may be working or otherwise not having proper understanding or adjustment. Children who have had a traumatic experience or have suffered from sexual or physical abuse also develop such tendency. Children suffering from stress, depression and anxiety may also indulge in such activities.
Self injury is generally inflicted in a manner which the child is able to explain. This is done alone or in the company of friends. Legs, arms and chest are generally the places where the injury is inflicted. When the parents make intrusive questions from the children about the cause of the injury, they will generally not be in a position to give clear answers and may go on the defensive or become offensive. This should be a warning sign for the parents. Other signs for the parents can be that the child does not let the wound heal by continuously picking it. The child may make derogatory comments about herself and become more and more secretive and try to keep away from friends and family. If such a tendency is noticed, the parents should search the room of the child when she is away. It is likely that they will find some sharp edged object which may have been used for inflicting injury.
In case of most of the children this is done to release emotions. This way they do not hurt someone else but inflict injury on themselves. The children are unable to express their feelings to parents, teachers or even to their peers. To release themselves from anxiety, insult, depression or anger they inflict injury on themselves. When the parents or the teachers at school find and talk about the injury, the child feels satisfied with the attention he gets.
What should parents do?
To help the child overcome this problem the parents need to play an important part. Lack of attention being the main cause of development of this type of behaviour, it is essential that despite differences between the parents, the child whom they have given birth to should be brought up properly. In case the parents suspect that the child is indulging in self cutting habit, they should express their concern to the child and it will be better to ask the child directly if she has inflicted injury and why. Love and affection shown by the mother to the daughter and proper explanation of her problems or misunderstandings about herself will go a long way in helping the child overcome this problem.
In extreme cases a visit to the psychiatrist will be necessary and the child may have to undergo mental health evaluation. It may be possible that the child may have inflicted injury to kill himself and has little understanding of the extent of injury necessary to kill. Such suicidal tendency needs to be properly addressed both medically and psychologically. Proper care and counselling by the parents will be of great help to the child to overcome this tendency.