Cutting is a terrifying and serious epidemic plaguing adolescents. Recent studies have found that one-third to one-half of adolescents in the US have engaged in some type of self-injurious behavior.
As a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teens who self-harm, I have been baffled by this for years. This act of mutilation makes no sense. After all, youth is fleeting and adults are desperate to maintain their health and vitality, so why do the young intentionally compromise their own?
Three phenomenon help explain why an adolescent is compelled to cut.
The first is developmental. An adolescent’s brain chemistry is drastically different, causing them to be far more impulsive. Also, because of the massive changes in hormones and with their bodies, the adolescent is often uncomfortable in their own skin.
Moreover, because they are attempting to figure out who they are in relationship to the world (identity formation), acceptance from their peers becomes a primary need. If there is rejection, it feels as if the world is ending.