Why do young people find it hard to stop self-harming?

self harm support Jan 27, 2022

Why do young people find it hard to stop self-harming?

 There can be many reasons why your teen is self-harming, but there is one main reason they find it so hard to stop – although deeply unhealthy, it’s the most effective coping mechanism they’ve found for the troubles in their life!

But the short-term relief they feel after self-harming, soon gives way to strong negative feelings, which in turn need to be managed. And that's why young people find themselves in an endless cycle of self-harm.

Why does your teen self-harm?

In my experience, the most common reasons for young people self-harming are:

Why is it so hard to stop?                                               

When asked, a lot of young people can't explain why they’re self-harming, but it’s commonly understood that the pain of hurting themselves is a distraction from the pain of the difficult emotions they’re feeling.

Self-harm usually starts as a way to relieve the build-up of overwhelming thoughts and feelings. 

People often turn to it when the things causing their emotional pain and stress are completely out of their control. The act of self-harming gives temporary relief and is their choice, giving them a feeling of regaining some control.

Your child feels temporary relief through hurting themselves as it causes their body to release endorphins into their blood. These ‘happy’ chemicals make them feel calm for a short moment. They’re the same chemicals our body releases after a workout and are addictive, making it difficult for your child to stop self-injuring. 

But this relief is only temporary because the reasons your child is unhappy and troubled still remain. Unless they find healthier coping methods, the self-harming behaviour will continue. 

Lastly, after hurting themselves, most young people have strong feelings of regret, guilt, and shame, which in turn need to be dealt with…and so the cycle continues.

Short-term distractions can help a child overcome the urge to self-harm:

I recently asked parents of young people who self-harm, if their children have found any ways to resist the compelling urge to self-harm when they feel overwhelmed. It was really interesting that the overwhelming majority of these parents reported that their child or teen found short-term distractions really helped to overcome the urge.

I’ve listed some of them below which you may want to discuss with your own child:

Here are some other ideas that your child may enjoy:

Obviously, these are only short-term distractions and do not solve the far deeper underlying cause of your child’s self-harm. I really recommend enrolling on our free online course which is being added to all the time and will shortly provide videos on healthier coping strategies to deal with overwhelming feelings and thoughts. This can help your child’s recovery by breaking the cycle of self-harm in the long-term.

P.S. Make sure you CHECK OUT the FREE resources we got available for parents of self-harming tweens and teens here:---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE BOOKLET and learn how our founder, Claire Sutton, led her self-harming teenage child back to health & happiness: www.YouthMentalHealthFoundation.org/e-book

SIGN-UP FOR OUR FREE ONLINE COURSE where coach you to play a key role supporting your child’s healing & recovery; their journey back to health and happiness: www.youthmentalhealthfoundation.org/onlinecourse 


Research and Community Executive




50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.