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Teen Self-cutting

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
I co-parent a 13 year old female who has been caught self-cutting a few times over the past year. Anyone else have similar experiences?
post #2 of 28
Self mutilation is a symptom. I would seek the help of a professional who specifically deals with teens.
post #3 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by MusicianDad View Post
Self mutilation is a symptom. I would seek the help of a professional who specifically deals with teens.
Yes, please get her some help.
post #4 of 28
I'm outing myself as a former self-harmer. It happened because there is an overwhelming feeling of not having control. Intentional self harm gives a moment of feeling powerful and in control that sadly subsides and can leave the self-harmer feeling even more out of control, creating a cycle.

100% get her professional help. That being said therapists are all people too so you may have to shop around until you can find someone she can work well with. And I'd really attempt to get her involved in finding a therapist. Try to talk without judgement. If you can try letting her know that it must suck to feel so upset that cutting feels like the only option. Tell her that many people who have been in that dark place before felt better and more in control of themselves with therapy. Then ask if she think she'd be willing to find a professional who'd be able to understand how she feels, and who could help her feel stronger. The important thing is making sure she feels like she has some say in what happens to her and that she doesn't feel like she is being thought of as "crazy" just overwhelmed.


It is 100% a symptom of something being too big for her too handle. Not that this is the case here but I started cutting because I was being sexually abused by a family friend and I felt like it was my fault.
post #5 of 28
Make sure you find a therapist who she feels comfortable with. I used to cut and I hated my therapist. I pretended I was better, told them what they wanted to hear, continued self harming behaviors and ended up in the psych ward for 3 days. Then I had to go to the therapist the hospital said who I hated so much. So the telling them what they wanted to hear , namely that I was cured and would never ever cut again, happened and I was deemed "cured". I continued to cut for a few years after that though until I figured out what the issue was on my own and fixed it.
post #6 of 28
I'm another ex self harmer. It began when i was sexually abused (age 5-12), and continued until i realised it'd become my habit on dealing with emotional pain (i couldn't handle internal pain so i would externalise it by hurting myself) in my early 20's. I was never a cutter but i did fracture my wrist once by smashing my arm down and a marble counter-top edge. I didn't get it treated properly either, because i was scared "they" would find out i was mad. It was discovered, healed, on a later x-ray. Interestingly i found out my father (who was not my abuser btw) also self-harmed, in the same sorts of ways, though i never ever witnessed it.

I sorted myself out, eventually, but therapy would have been better when it all began, when i was a kid and angry about the abuse i was suffering but with no other outset for the pain i was in. Talk to her. Get her some help. Believe her, whatever she tells you.
post #7 of 28
I used to cut myself, too, and burn myself with cigarettes a couple of times...I wasn't a teen, though. I was 28. But I acted like a teen.

I think, in hindsight, I did it to prove I was real. I felt such a daily unreality. Also, though, I'm an alcoholic/addict and I was in the throes of my addiction. It hadn't even gotten to its worst point, when I was cutting.

IMO-- she needs to be believed, and listened to, and perhaps if you find a therapist that doesn't reek of "professionalism" but maybe looks (NOT in a fake way) more like her, NOT someone trying to be fake-young but is really kind of youngish, if that makes sense. Someone she can really relate to. Maybe someone who used to cut.
I have a young friend-- she's probably 26 now-- who went to school for social work. She said once, before she graduated "Who'd listen to me? I look like I just came out of juvie" and I said "Maybe some kids would have an easier time relating to you then" and she was like "Oh yeah! Maybe so!"
That's what I mean.

Hope she gets some help soon
post #8 of 28
Another cutter here. I began cutting when I was 12ish after I was sexually assaulted and my mother told me I was a whore for it.

For me, it was a way to control, it was something that *I* could do and absolutely NO ONE could tell me how the hell to do it. I would cut every inch of my body, even my face. I would carve words (help me, no fear, F/U, eat me, etc) in my arms/legs.

The biggest misconception about cutters is that we DO NOT attempt suicide. It is never a suicidal attempt when cutting, but sometimes it goes too deep.

I agree also with the therapy. There is an underlying issue with her. Something has happened in her life that has caused her to feel 'less than', 'out of control', etc.

I would seek a professional (if that is the route you take) that specializes in cutting.... THAT is very important. Cutters are misunderstood! Many ppl think they cut to hurt themselves in a negative manner, to try to die. This is not always the case. It, for me, was more so of being in control of my life, my choices, my decisions, MY BODY!!!!!

IF she has anyone in her life, mature/adult/role model type person, that could speak with her, I strongly encourage that. It *is* possible for her to get through this with out being seen by a therapist and ending up with a "label/metal illness record" for the rest of her life.

Wishing you the best in this journey! It may take many years of continuous help/encouragement/love/commitment to help her through this. She NEEDS support. I would also like to stress, PLEASE do not ever blame her for cutting herself, although it is HER who is cutting HERSELF. Cutting is a disease, just like alcoholism/drug addiction/porn-sex addiction... It is a disease. It DOES NOT mean she is nuts or needs to be put into the hospital for mental illness. She just needs help dealing with and healing from a trauma that has happened to her. It may take some time for whatever happened to her to come out, when it does, she will need all the supportive persons she can get to help her through it!!!!

You know her much better than ANYONE OF US DO. You know who she is, what she is like, what makes her tick, etc.

Subbing in order to read up on any updates... again, I wish you well in this journey!
post #9 of 28
I've know a person who use to cut herself. She had depression and the beginnings of bipolar disorder. She said when she felt physical pain it distracted her from the emotional pain and made the emotional pain easier to deal with.

I think self inflicted pain is always a sign that something is wrong. And as other said having a therapist you like and that you feel respects you as a person is essential for therapy to do any good.
post #10 of 28
[QUOTE=ssh;15758684]. She said when she felt physical pain it distracted her from the emotional pain and made the emotional pain easier to deal with.
QUOTE]

That exactly.... Another cutter... Therapy is a must, but again the thearpist match is very important. For example i can not tolerate female therapists. People cut for a number of reasons, I can recommend a couple of really good books
1. 'A bright red scream'. After many many years my dog eared copy is well worn. http://www.amazon.com/Bright-Red-Scr...2376352&sr=8-1
2.http://www.amazon.com/Cutting-Unders...ref=pd_sim_b_2
3.http://www.amazon.com/Inside-Cutters...ref=pd_sim_b_7
4.http://www.amazon.com/Skin-Game-Memo...ef=pd_sim_b_15

Most of those should be available at the local library or library loan system. Personally I have all and more in my personal library.

PM me if you want to talk, or if anyone on this message needs more info.
post #11 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ssh View Post
She said when she felt physical pain it distracted her from the emotional pain and made the emotional pain easier to deal with.
This.
post #12 of 28
I would agree with the above. My dh was a cutter as is his sister and our dd was close. It can be overCome without counseling as my dh did as an adult but we got both my SIL and dd help and they did not have to deal with the years of pain.
post #13 of 28
My sister was a cutter. There was no sexual abuse, we have a normal family, 2.5 kids and a dog white picket fence.
She was bored, she is too smart and wasn't being challenged. Overcoming physical pain is a challenge.

It's also become trendy to cut. I have seen little razor blade necklaces at the mall.
Either way, she needs to talk to a professional who can figure out what is happening.
post #14 of 28

I was relieved to see this subject here

My 13 year old dd just started doing this and I have got bits and pieces out of her as to why she is doing it. She is a smart, but very quiet kid. She doesn't like confrontation and at the end of the school year there was a lot of problems and drama at school.

She hasn't really hung out with her friends and she is very anxious about going back to school next week. We talked to the principal and I told her some of my concerns and some of the stuff that went on last year.

There is one girl who is friends with my dd who is not coming back and really was a holy terror in the class room. I think the dynamic of the class will change without this girl there.

My dd has her first appt with a pediatric pschologist on Tuesday. So I am hoping for the best.

She seems to be releived that I made this appt. She also does not cover up the fact that she is cutting herself and when people question her about it, she lies about it, but then if I am around she says "you didn't tell them?" When i say I haven't she tells them to "ask my mom". She has only done this with relatives.

She has been having trouble sleeping and seems depressed.

If anyone has any suggestions for me, they would be welcomed.
Thanks
post #15 of 28
Another former self-harmer here. I will mostly echo what a lot of other people here have said. For me cutting myself was a way of dealing with emotions i couldn't handle, and to feel in control of my own body.

I started when I was 12, and didn't totally stop until I was 20. When I was 14 I got caught cutting and was sent to a therapist who I really grew to like. Initially I was resistant to the idea of counseling but over time I grew to really enjoy my time with my therapist and had a great relationship with her for over 4 years. So my first recommendation is a good counselor. I also believe that the definition of a good counselor varies greatly for each person, for me I really needed someone who would listen and affirm the emotions I was feeling.

The second thing I would say is figure out if there are any underlying mental health issues. I was eventually diagnosed with ADD, depression and anxiety, all of which made me feel alone and out of control. The talk therapy was most helpful for the depression, and appropriate medication (for me it was a VERY low dose) helped the ADD and anxiety the most.

I also highly recommend the book "A Bright Red Scream," it is a really excellent book with a lot of good personal stories and information.
post #16 of 28
Self injurer here too.I will echo what everyone else said.My biggest thing is making my emotional pain seem real.I feel like I'm not real sometimes,the emotional pain is too much and the physical pain tells me I am.I'm also bipolar and have severe depression and anxiety.I started cutting as an adult,but was self injuring in other ways as a child.Finding a therapist can be difficult but well worth it.I was seeing one therapist 2 years ago,that was not a good match for me.I ended up inpatient for 7 days.I found my current therapist now,and I rarely cut.I also had my meds changed.I'm on too many meds to me,but I'm not cutting so they must be working,along with the therapy.I also recommend those books a pp posted. I hope everything works out.
post #17 of 28
Another ex-self-injurer here as well! I would definitely seek professional advice. There's got to be a reason for it. Though I did know someone at university who tried it a couple of times because she thought it was cool. But it sounds as though this isn't what we're talking about.

It gets to be like an addiction, IME. You have to keep doing it to feel present. The pain somehow cuts through the numbness you're feeling.

While she is seeking treatment, there are some options that help some people to get the'satisfaction' without actually injuring themselves:
-squeeze an ice cube as hard as you can in your hand.
-colour some ice red with food colouring and 'cut' with that. The red water looks like blood (apparently the satisfaction of seeing blood is important to some people)
-draw on body with red markers instead of cutting.

This one is still self harming but is less dangerous - use clean, sterilized sewing pins instead of razors. Hurst, but won't leave scars.

Unfortunately one of the legacies of being a cutter is the scars even once you're recovered.
post #18 of 28
I'll go ahead and admit that I STILL have problems with self harm...and I started when I was 13 (I'll be 24 next year)

Everyone's reason is different. Some people need the control, some people need the pain, some people need the endorphins, etc... For me? It made me numb AND it was a way to punish myself for things I felt people ignored or made light of (like a B on a test)

You WILL need to shop around for therapists. It's a touchy thing and you need someone that has dealt with it before and will be sensitive about it.

A few things that parents can do? Don't make a big deal out of it. Yes, I know it's a big deal, I'm not saying it's not! However, I was 17 when my mother found out and she would make me strip down naked to check for new cuts. (DO NOT DO THIS) Chances are she feels guilty about it already (it's not exactly something to be proud of...) so adding to the guilt ("How can you do this to yourself?!?" or "What is wrong with you?") will only make things worse and ruin any and all chances you have at dialogue. Don't make her promise to not do it again because it's not necessarily a promise she can keep...which, when she does slip, will lead to more guilt and secrecy.

It is an addiction. What happens for a lot of people (and did for me) is the endorphins get addictive. When I would get upset I couldn't deal with it at that moment (my parents said I was "too sensitive" and "cried too much"...turns out I had depression and was having anxiety attacks) so I would cut to get that RUSH (your body produces endorphins as a response to pain) and would calm down. It's similar to the response you get when you do drugs...There's a "come down" from the endorphin high and everything. To this day I immediately think about cutting when I get really upset because I don't trust myself to calm down "fast enough."

Firemom: I wouldn't push her to tell anyone. Again, this can make the guilt worse. When she's ready to talk about it she will. (Like those of us here) If she's not ready to confront it within herself it's not fair to force her to confront it in front of others. That's my experience...
post #19 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by AFWife View Post

Firemom: I wouldn't push her to tell anyone. Again, this can make the guilt worse. When she's ready to talk about it she will. (Like those of us here) If she's not ready to confront it within herself it's not fair to force her to confront it in front of others. That's my experience...

I've never told her to tell anyone, but she wants me to tell them. She only wants the close relatives to know and they have all talked to her freely about and it and so has she. So I would think its a good thing?

Everyone has been non judgemental and they all just tell her how much they care about and love her.
post #20 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Firemom View Post
I've never told her to tell anyone, but she wants me to tell them. She only wants the close relatives to know and they have all talked to her freely about and it and so has she. So I would think its a good thing?

Everyone has been non judgemental and they all just tell her how much they care about and love her.
Okay I took your story the wrong way! Sorry about that. I get a little, uh, protective I guess...just because I had a terrible experience with people knowing.
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