Self Harming Kids and the Internet

Teenagers that struggle with depression, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder may find an outlet in self-harming behavior. These teenagers may cut, burn, or otherwise mutilate their bodies, stating that it helps to ease the emotional pain that they are feeling. Self-harming behavior is NOT the same as suicidal behavior, and is often done because sufferers experience feelings of release, control, or euphoria when they self-harm.
 
More and more teenagers who self-harm are initially learning about this behavior on the Internet. Over 500 message boards now exist on the topic. Teens can learn how to cut without causing serious damage, exchange dark poetry, and discuss their deepest thoughts and feelings. Suicidal behavior has been linked to self-harming behavior, but no statistical correlation has yet been made. However, teens can use these sites to discuss their suicidal thoughts and plans, as well. Graphic images are used to identify users online, including pictures of their cuts and scars.
 
For a teenager that struggles with self-harm, these sites can be extremely triggering. Just seeing the scars of others can trigger the desire to self-harm. The behavior is often justified as normal, as well, which may make encouraging your teen to seek treatment even more difficult. If they don’t believe they have a problem, it can be next to impossible to convince them to participate actively in their treatment. Internet chat rooms can make this problem worse, by validating and normalizing their self-harming behavior.
 
Signs of self-harming behavior include, but are not limited to: unexplained cuts, scrapes, or burns; words carved into your teens skin; sudden changes in behavior or mood; and sudden changes in clothing style, such as wearing long sleeves and long pants in the summer. If you notice any of these symptoms in your teenager, you may want to seek professional help.
 
If you find that your teenager has experimented with self-harming behavior, you should carefully evaluate their Internet usage. Studies show that teenagers are using the Internet more than ever before, and that 50% of teens have more than one email address or screen name – one that they use for personal emails with their friends and family, and one or more that they use to hide their identity online. Finding all of your teenager’s screen names may be difficult or impossible, so you may have to go as far as installing Internet controls on your computer. Do what you can at home to keep your child safe, and discuss an Internet safety plan with their therapist or psychiatrist. If possible, seek out a professional that has experience with self-harming behavior.
Have a great day!

Lawrence