Young people learn to cope with emotions in different ways. Some teens who are unable to cope with a buildup of feelings or painful emotions try to release the bottleneck by striking out physically or verbally, while others may seek relief through self-harm or self-injury, including cutting or burning themselves.

Self-injury usually starts during puberty and can last for ten years or more if left untreated. Episodes are often triggered by emotional pain. Some self-injurers want to feel emotions more intensely; others want to punish themselves. In most cases, this is a misdirected way for people to feel better by enduring physical pain rather than emotional pain.

Cutting is the most common form of self-injury; razor blades or glass are the most common tools. Other forms of self-injury include burning or hitting oneself, picking at scabs so that they can’t heal, pulling out hair and inserting objects into one’s body.

In a broader sense, self-harm can also include such behaviour as drug use, smoking, eating disorders, and entering into or staying in bad or abusive relationships.

It is important for children exhibiting this type of behaviour to talk to people they trust—people who will not judge them but will help them get help from a mental health professional, who will help them to find other ways of expressing their feelings and dealing with underlying issues.