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Self-Harm Warning Signs and Symptoms

As with any other illness, many mental health disorders have identifiable signs and symptoms. These can help you to detect an issue with yourself or a loved one. Self-harm, although not a mental illness, is an unhealthy way to cope with emotions.

It can be difficult for parents to recognize that their child is self-harming, but, there are signs that you can look out for:
  • Has visible cuts or scratches on wrists or arms 
  • Covers up arms, legs or torso with long sleeves or pants 
  • Wears an inappropriate amount of layers for the weather
  • Hides sharp objects in their rooms or personal spaces
  • Makes negative comments about themselves 

Many children and young adults try hiding the fact they hurt themselves and are often embarrassed, ashamed, or worried about how others will react to their behavior. Helping your child or loved one who is practicing self-harm seek help is important, and identifying their behaviors can be a way of knowing they need help.

Understanding the emotional signs in your child is a way to help them cope and can prevent the possibility of future self-harm. They might have the following behaviors:
  • Uncharacteristic signs of anger and distress 
  • Being short-tempered 
  • Shows changes in moods, such as depression or anxiety 
  • Shows loss of interest in activities with family and friends 
  • Has difficulty with interpersonal relationships
  • Exhibits behavioral and emotional instability, impulsivity, and/or unpredictability
  • Discusses frequent “accidental” injuries to explain visible injuries
  • Uses alcohol or other substances

Identifying these emotional characteristics may help you discover their self-harm.

Every child or individual is different! If you suspect self-harm in your child, make sure the lines of communication are open. Try to help them become comfortable talking and being honest about hurting themselves. Then you can work together to decide the best course of action. 

It is extremely important for parents or caregivers to remain calm and nonjudgmental when approaching a loved one about self-harm. The goal is to be supportive and not bring out defensiveness over the behavior.

It can be really scary a family to learn of self-harm. It’s difficult to talk about, and its okay for a parent or caregiver to reach out to someone for support for themselves, as well as for their loved one.

If you are concerned that your child or someone in your life is hurting themselves the mental health professionals and therapists at Meridian Behavioral Healthcare understand how difficult this is for your family.

Meridian has broad range of services for children and their families. In many cases, we can come to you.

Our therapists and healthcare workers can help your child replace negative coping strategies with positive coping mechanisms. If you need help, please reach out for help today!

For more information and ways that Meridian can help, contact us at 352.374.5600 or schedule a Telehealth appointment with us at

If you are a new patient, or are a current patient experiencing a crisis you can see someone face-to-face virtually, or on demand 24/7/365.

You are not alone.

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Disclaimer: The content included on Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, Inc. social media pages and website is not intended to provide medical or mental health advice and should not be taken or used as medical or mental health advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any issues or questions you may have regarding any medical or mental health condition or treatment.

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