5 Reasons Why Children and Teens Self-Harm

Self-harm is a growing concern among adolescents and teenagers and many parents don’t understand why or how to address it with their children.

Adolescence is a time for many hormonal changes and often the beginnings for mental health issues emerging like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and bipolar disorder.


Self-harm can look like:

  • Hitting themselves
  • Burning
  • Cutting
  • Skin picking
  • Causing broken bones


But why would a child want to harm themselves?

Here, I’m going to show 5 reasons why children and teens self-harm.


  • First, To distract from emotional pain they may be experiencing and are unsure of how to cope or handle the intensity of feelings. Self-harm shifts the focus and releases endorphins to physically shift the current feelings.
  • Secondly, To feel something when they otherwise feel very numb or disconnected from their emotions and/or are fearful to express these feelings openly. Self-harm allows a feeling to be released even if not the feeling attached to the circumstances at hand.
  • Thirdly, To express specific emotions like anger or sadness at self rather than outwardly onto others. Self-harm is an outward expression of inner emotions for many.
  • Fourth, To punish themselves for something they believe they did wrong or for expectations they may not be able to meet. It can be seen in children and adults who hold themselves to very high standards that even the most gifted may not be able to achieve all of the time.
  • Fifth, To feel a sense of control over their moods, emotions, and body. This is especially relevant for those who have been through trauma or have experienced multiple changes outside of their control.


Those are my 5 primary reasons why a child may engage in self-harm. If you or your child needs extra support in dealing with this serious and difficult topic, please reach out to us today and schedule an appointment.