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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Cutting
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I just found this out tonight. My daughter has a bit of asperger type component to who she is, but its so mild that it isn't even called aspergers, just PPD NOS (pervasive personality disorder, not otherwise specified).
She recognizes herself as different, but in a poetic, fringy kind of way. She is very smart, both academically and socially, but a bit ''stiff'' so I guess other kids don't relate to her so easily. Her friends are also ''fringy'', and while they are nice kids, I have known that some of them are depressed and cut themselves. My daughter loves dark depressing books and loves to write depressing poetry. She feels she has a form of depression, but its just part of who she is and not anything she wants to go to therapy for to feel better and definately isn't interested in medication. She feels she will probably grow out of her depression.
I don't see her as depressed, but with an inner lonliness and as someone who has developed a persona that includes depression. Now that I know she is cutting, I am not sure what to think. She volunteered that she'd stop cutting because she knows it hurts me and doesn't want to do that. I tried to talk to her about why it is that she cuts, to understand what it is that she gets out of it, but even tho she has explained that it helps her to feel better when she is feeling blue, it still doesn't make sense. She has made me promse to not tell her dad/ my husband, which I agreed to. He sometimes can respond in a dismissive or insulting way.
I am not sure what to do, if anything. My daughter swears she is not in danger, that her cutting was always shallow and controlled, and that she won't do it anymore. I am also concerned about her depression. She seems to feel that it is just part of who she is, and she doesn't want to change anything about who she is (sounds like self esteem to me, oddly). Any advice? Confused in Teenager Land
I have a daughter who sounds quite similar, and depression was sort of a constant companion, and her ''story'' was that she had lived an unconventional life with some moves, some changes of school, etc etc, and that her peers didn't understand her, but at the end of the day, as part of her growing up, she had to learn that she WASN'T her story, and she needed professional help to begin to learn that lesson and to take control of her destiny.
My kid is also a bit of an outlier, and introverted, very smart and creative, and never fit in at Berkeley High. But when she told me one afternoon in the car that she had just begun, in a minor, testing way, to cut herself, well, that was it. What more of a red flag did I need? She was frightened by her own behavior and understood she needed help, and looked to me to take charge, which I did immediately. I called on my own therapist for immediate guidance, and she was a god-send, and helped me to immediately find a great therapist for my kid. Now, a couple of years later, lots of healing has happened and my daughter is successfully navigating her first year of college back East. But she had work to do, and she did it, and she moved through something, because really, it was either that or get a lot darker, and things were dark enough.
Your instincts are telling you to take action, thus your post, which I commend you for writing. Now take the next steps and get some further help. I told my daughter that there are all kinds of doctors and that she needed a doc for mental health, which is no less important than any other kind of medical assistance. In my view, it should not be left up to your daughter, and I'd be marshalling my resources to get her a new and very focused and supportive type of intervention right away. I would also try to enlist your husband to be supportive and trustworthy during this difficult time for your family (not just your daughter). Things can get better but that takes some doing. And as her mom, I say it's up to you to be the driving force in her path to healing. Best wishes
I am looking for a group for adolescent girls who cut themselves. My daughter, who recently stated cutting herself) is in therapy and is on medication but deeply wants to be in a support group with others like her. Are there any groups in or around the Pinole area that anyone knows of? anon
Hello All, My dear friend has an adopted daughter who currently attends her first year of college away from home. It is the end of the first semester, and the daughter's grades are poor. He is being a bit fearful/cautious in addressing the issue of poor grades with his daughter. She used to be a ''cutter'' due to some traumatic issues related to her biological father deserting her and her mother, whom He is now married to for approximately 10+ years. He is worried that in talking about the poor grades with his daughter, the potential induced stress will cause his daughter to begin cutting again. In addition, recently the biological father, who is still somewhat in their lives, has asked that his daughter visit with his mother, the daughters biological grandmother. The daughter does not want to make the visit in the MidWest, but because the biological father pays child support, there is some speculation that they should allow the biological father these visiting rights.
Any advice regarding how and if my friend might be able to address the issue of grades with his daughter would be much appreciated. He is of the position that if the grades aren't kept up, his daughter should go to a local college and live at home, as college away is so expensive.
Thank you for your help. A Friend Who Needs Some Help in Parenting
In my opinion as a human, a parent, a teacher and a student of
psychology I would prioritize the needs in this order:
1. the young girl
2. her college studies and everything she needs to support that
3. all the adults in her life take a very back seat and get over ''their control issues''.
If grandma were really ''grandma'' the girl would be delighted to see her. People need to get over the fact that blood does not determine relationships.
I lived in a split family, foster care the whole boot. My mother was never there as my mother, the whole family never understood that. Luckily my college recognized me as an independent student early on and though I had to deal with them I did not have to deal with my family. Otherwise I probably would never have graduated or gone to college for that matter, they really did not want me to go.
Someone needs to put the child first. It is possible your friend may be the only one who does that - so why does he think that the biological father's support money gets to call the shots? I would take it to court before I dragged the young girl into it. She is in need of support at college of many kinds as all college students require to be successful. Been there myself.
I found out a month ago that my daughter is cutting. She's 13, my only child and we used to be extremely close, which is making the pulling away process really hard on both of us. She gets angry often and I really have to watch what I say, she is very sensitive to what she percieves as criticism. My husband and I have discussed taking her to her doctor and a therapist. She is really against the therapist. We had a good talk via aim and I agreed that I would let her know in advance if we were going to go to counseling, I also gave her parameters that would lead us to therapy (increase in us arguing, signs of increased unhappiness, etc), I told I would not ask her about cutting but asked her to talk to me if she does (she hasn't but I also don't think she's cut). I want to stand by what I said, but my husband wants to go to the therapist immediately. I have arranged for a busy summer that I think will be empowering (jr. counselor job) for her and we have lots of fun trips planned, I know she is looking forward it. Am I being naive? Can she and I work this out together? concerned mom
My daughter is now 15 and doing really great. A fairly short and focused series of counselling sessions (I can't remember exactly, maybe 10 or so) made a huge difference for her. Don't wait. And good luck! been there
We agreed to have our daughter start seeing a psychologist who visited students at the school each week. We thought this was helping until about one month later when the psychologist called me at work one morning to tell me that she was going to immediately admit my daughter into the adolescent psychiatric unit at Alta Bates/Herrick because she felt that our daughter was at risk of doing more than just cutting herself. That was one very long year ago and while things have gotten better, our daughter still has a ways to go.
So from this harrowing experience, I can tell you the following:
1. You cannot take chances with your daughter's life and she needs professional help. Get her to therapy now. She may say that she doesn't want it, but at a time like this you cannot let her dictate what is best for her because clearly, she doesn't know. You are the parent and you have to make these hard decisions.
2. Determine as soon as possible whether medication may help your daughter. The psychiatrist who first visited our daughter at the hospital suggested that we consider medication, but we were scared and confused and thought how can he know this when he has only met with her for one session? We postponed the decision about the meds and decided to have our daughter see a social worker for the talk therapy (which was great) and a psychiatrist for a possible prescription for the medication. Once she was on the meds, our daughter decided that she didn't like her psychiatrist and refused to see him, so it became impossible to continue on the meds. With our daughter's buy-in, we switched her to another psychiatrist who would provide both the therapy and the medication. Our lesson learned: try the medication sooner and use the one professional who can manage both -- it makes it easier on so many different levels.
3. When you have a daughter going through this, it is impossible to know when bad behaviors occur (angry outbursts for no apparent reason, rebellion, etc.), whether it is depression talking or just typical teenage behavior. My lesson learned: Your daughter's therapist may become your new best friend. While the therapist must maintain your daughter's confidentiality and trust, he/she can be a great resource for you when you need advice or help dealing with what is happening at home. Your friends (parents of other teens) can tell you whether what your daughter is doing is similar to behavior they experience in their own home, but they cannot tell you how to deal with cutting, depressive behaviors, etc.
4. Scheduling your daughter for a variety of activities may keep her preoccupied for a time, but it won't stop her from cutting if she really wants to. Even during the busiest time for our daughter last summer, we learned that she was still hurting herself. Cutting provides a kind of release, even, I am told, a kind of ''high'' that helps the person cope with whatever painful issues they are feeling. From our experience, busy activities can be a good thing, but only professional therapy can really help treat the underlying problems.
5. For the parent looking for an East Bay support group: contact the folks at the adolescent psychiatric unit at Alta Bates/Herrick. We found all the people there to be a great resource and very understanding.
6. Finally, hang in there, continue to love, hug and kiss your daughter (even when you think she doesn't want you to), don't take anything your daughter says personally and find your own stress reducer: running, yoga, etc. Treatment for cutting and any possible underlying depression will take time. You will have to keep supporting and loving your daughter through this time and you will have to stay strong. Things can and do get better. I know because they are for us anonymous concerned but hopeful mom
She's been in therapy, has been hospitalized for depression and cutting and is currently on medication. We are in marathon mode now as her issues are not going to go away on their own.
Maybe your daughter's cutting won't escalate, but you also don't want to sit back and suddenly be in crisis mode trying to find her some some help.
Hang in there...it's an often lonely journey for families as there are not many support groups out there for families of teens that are depressed or cut. Empathetic Mom
I want to know if there is a support group for teenage girls who cut themselves, and also a group for me, the mother of this girl. We are both going to therapy, but I would like more support. Also, if anyone knows more resources for helping a cutter, and for dealing with the entire issue--I would like to hear from others in the same situtation. I have read on-line, and know of the books. I would like to hear what YOU have done that worked. Thank you. Mom of 14 year old
The following article was shared with all parents by the counselor at King Middle School in Berkeley earlier this spring -- after I learned that my 12 year old daughter was cutting herself. I am sharing this and my comments because it is important that other parents be vigilant regarding this self injuring behavior.
In our case, what was apparently most effective was that it was my daughter's 7th grade school mates of many years who had confronted her about what they observed her hiding on her arms with long sleeved sweatshirts. This "intervention" by her peers seems to have been the critical factor causing her to stop. Additionally, soon after a parent of one of the friends overheard her daughter worrying about my daughter -- and thus that parent contacted the school counselor and me.
When I had first been warned about this as a suspected behavior by an observant teacher, frankly -- I let the news pass right by. But the second message put me into high gear; and this article was given to me by the school counselor a few days later. For me as the parent, what initially helped the crisis was that I got sound professional advise immediately -- including from a friend who expressed her confidence in me as the mother to be the person to confront my daughter and who told me to be sure to tell my daughter that she was not in trouble and she would not be punished. The effect of that message (after the first outburst of denial and retreating to the bathroom) was that my daughter broke into tears and ceased the denials.
As for me, I desperately sought to understand what goes on when a person cuts themselves. I too have read many books and I consulted with a psychologist. I do not have an answer for my daughter. Fortunately I was counseled to realize that my daughter will probably never tell ME why she cut herself; and thus, I will probably never really know.
It appears that my daughter only did this for about a month or s0, and that because she was confronted by her peers, she stopped. Ultimately, I believe that what worked in our case was that I have made decisions in my life as a single parent to raise my children with a community helping me -- their school friends, other parents, activities to keep them busy and feeling positive about themselves, relationships with teachers, psychologists at the schools and Kaiser, and -- whatever else I can draw upon in our diverse East Bay community. I get tired being so vigilant and I shed tears; however, I also choose to make it fun being involved in the schools in order to have resources at hand for my family.
I wish you and especially your daughter greater wellness through the counseling process.
This is an important article.
To: "King etree" Subject: Article about self injury (cutting) by King Counselor Date: Tue, 13 Apr 2004 Jan Sells is concerned about the number of King kids who are cutting themselves. She wrote the article below for distribution to King families: During the eighteen years I have been counseling students at King, many various issues have presented themselves, from hurt feelings to hurt bodies. In the past five years, I have been concerned to see self-mutilation on the rise-mostly manifested by intentional cutting (usually on the forearm, but it can be anywhere) self-inflicted with a sharp instrument such as a knife blade, razor blade, even the end of a paper clip. Last spring I spoke to a psychologist who works with adolescents at Kaiser who concurred with me that the increase is alarming. This spring it seems to be occurring in epidemic proportions. I hope parents and teachers will start taking a look at their students' arms. A couple of years ago KQED aired a half-hour program addressing this syndrome and interviewed young white adolescent girls (the population most often acting out in this way, though I have seen it among males and kids of color, as well) about why they cut themselves. "It makes me feel better," is the most common explanation. "It relieves the pressure." "It allows ME to be in control of my pain." When the body is injured, hormones called endorphins are released to fight anxiety, agitation, and depression. According to Steven Levenkron, author of CUTTING: Understanding & Overcoming Self-Mutilation, "the chemical interplay can produce an addiction to the 'drugs' manufactured by one's own body." Cutting is not to be confused with attempted suicide; it is a coping mechanism. Other forms of self-mutilation include burning and pulling out one's hair (trichotillomania). Eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia, which are also prevalent and on the rise among adolescents, may have some of the same roots and pay-offs. All of these behaviors are serious cries for help and need to be met with compassion and understanding. An edition of The Prevention Researcher (Volume 7, No. 4) dedicated itself to the subject of self-mutilation. It can be accessed at http://www.TPRonline.org/ and gives guidance to parents and counselors who work with those performing self-inflicted violence (SIV). "It is important to acknowledge the messages sent by these scars and injuries. An ability to understand the severity of the self-injurer's distress and empathize appropriately will enhance your communication and connection. Do not be afraid to raise the subject of emotional pain. Allow the youth to speak about his/her inner turmoil rather than express it through self-damaging methods," writes Tracy Alderman, Ph.D., author of The Scarred Soul: Understanding and Ending Self-Inflicted Violence. If parents and guardians notice cuts on their kids' bodies, these may be a result of self-injury. King has counselors available to help with crisis intervention and short-term issues. However, you may want to consider family therapy, for which I can give you referrals. Family therapy makes the assumption that kids are not acting as separate agents, but rather are aresult of a family system that is interactive. In order to reestablish balance in one member of that system, the system itself needs to be balanced; ie. all members of the family system need to communicate and work together. I believe family therapy is the most effective and efficient means of helping kids. Feel free to phone me for referrals. Jan Sells, M.Ed, M.A., M.F.T. (510) 644-8534
Hi, My daughter has always been very stable and is a really good kid. Last weekend, I saw that she had cut a star inside a circle into the top of her hand. I talked w/ her about it - she said it's not a big deal and she won't do it again. I have contacted her school counselor and my company EAP looking for some help. I am not sure if this is a regular teen "thing" or if it's a sign that something serious is going on. I was a troubled teen but my anger was directed (mostly) out, not in, so I don't understand this at all. I would gladly accept suggestions here... ~Anon.~
Hi, I was reading the postings by teens and parents. I just wanted to send a word of encouragement. I am 44 now, used to cut myself during jr. high and high school, wouldn't think of it now, but I remember why I did it, very clearly, and I know how I stopped, so wanted to send this. I will preface it by saying that no one talked about cutting back then,(1976-1982) I was always certain that I was the only one. I began cutting because I had so much emotional pain and anger and I had no idea how to cope with those overwhelming feelings, and there were no adults in my life who could teach me more positive coping skills. Cutting released the pain, even if only for a little while. It also made the pain visible. It was also pain that I could control. I later learned a number of things 1. Everything passes, even the most painful situations and feelings. 2. How to identify and talk about my feelings, to release them. 3. How to build a positive support system of healthy friends 4. Living so as to gain a sense that I do have control in my life, can get things if I work for them (i.e. school and other goals) 5. A spiritual sense of connection to life. Not religion necessarily, but a sense that I matter as much as anyone else, am part of life, and have something to contribute. This arose from associating with people who really believed these things.6. Learning these new skills - and they are skills which mean they can be learned, no one is born with them - takes time, but it is worth it. Life is good, really.
I'm not part of your network, and realize this violates your publication guidelines, but my heart went out to those teens and parents. There is hope. It has been well over twenty years and I don't think of it as an option now, my first instinct is to talk to someone, take positive action, ro even just cry to release the pain. I was looking into this because I have a young friend who has begun cutting himself. J.
Hi. Yes I am a former cutter. I started in July of 2005. I dont know the real reason why i started, but shortly after is when my life started getting tough. I just turned 14 when I started and then shortly after was when i was getting up into boys and i was a new kid in a different state. I started off just scratching really hard and deep into my skin with a safety pin. Then it got to where id get knives. The worst started happening when I got the razor blade because it takes so little to break the skin and not much more to cut the flesh.And for me it wasnt so painful. I was sick and tired of cutting and hurting myself, wearing long sleeves all the time.. being paranoid about people touching my arms. I called my big brother and told him he told me to tell someone who was around me and made me promise him that i wouldnt do it again. well a week went by and things were very tough but I kept my promise. Until me and my stepmom got into it. I was so upset but i had that promise still in my head... but then all of a sudden i started shaking and having hard time breathing....things were happening...like a panic attack because I couldnt cut...I lost it..and it was the worst time ive done it. They were all up and down my arm and so many there were well over a hundred...But now is July 2006 and I just turned 15... I have been cut free...well like really cut free..no going crazy at it since Janurary. I do have carvings on my body as well. I have 3 boyss initials a diamond star thingy a "J" and the number 33 which is a basketball number of one of my exs... they have been there for a while and still very very visible.. I regret it but then again I couldnt help it. It was addicting. very!!!! And it released the anger, but i am very happy that i have quit!!! Mercedyz
I am a 14 going to be 15 teenaged girl. I have delt with my closest friends cutting and also myself. My mom knows i have done it and I know it's horrible, but It's really hard not to do it when you have already started. I have tried to stop, it worked for about a month then it started up again. The strange thing is I freak out when i acidently cut my leg in the shower and i'll freak out. My parents don't understand why I still cut and they well don't know... I'd tell them if they'd handel it better than I know they will. Cutting is like a drug heck it is a drug... a really bad one. once you start it's really hard to stop. I don't see a shrink. My closest friends do know though. IT's all over a boy that I really like and my parents wont let me see him... yes I know they are trying to do what is best for thier one and only daughter but i can't stop cutting not even for him anymore... All i want to be able to do is stop crying and be able to see him. I have scars and i'm not ashamed of them in a way i am proud of them. I don't know why but I do want to stop and then again I don't. Every time you do it it gives you a rush, like a drug. I do love him and I am trying sooo hard to stop for him. I usally think it over a bilion times before I do it. I had first started in 7th grade I didn't cut with like a razor I used my nails to make it bleed during gym. I am not the most athleteic person. I am only a simple kept to myself girl. I used to get picked on alot when i was little and now i don't take it. I have little attacks where i am full of rage then it goes away once i have done that "horrid thing"... i dunno what to do anymore -Bre
PARENTS, Okay well i hate it when my mom says "it can't be as hard as when i went to school" or just starts crying and screaming and yellin "oh muy god" it just makes it worse.. i know it's hard but don't do it..
I'm 16, female and an active cutter. I'm trying to quit but it's hard. When you cut, it releases endorphins, and that makes you feel better. Y'know, endorphins=happy. And it gets addicting, like smoking(i did quit that, go me!), or pot, or drugs.
As an active cutter, I hate it, but I need it. The pain from cuts keep me sane. But after, i hate it, I hate seeing them, feeling them, feeling the burn from soap when i shower.
I've been trying not to, but I'm like the drunk reac hing for "just a shot", or the smoker for "just one ciggie". and when i don't cut, i scratch. Which is worse, because it's messier, and I do it subconciously.
I'll chew on my lip, and my fingernails, and the sides of my fingernails, oftentimes tasting my own blood during class. and i'm not realizing that i'm doing this, which is horibble.
the worst part is, that nobody notices, a few friends know, and they watch me, make sure i don't go to deep.
Then there's carving, carving is cutting, but in shapes. Makes the scars prettier. I have runes, pentacles, a heart and the word no. My mom yelled at me because I couldn't take no as an answer, and I ended up crying in my room with my best friend and worst enemy, my knife. It's just how my life is. I want to stop cutting, and I'm trying, but I think that I don't know how. There was a time where I didn't cut for about three or four months. But I've been cutting ever since my freshman year, and n ow I'm a junior.
I don't think that I'll ever be able to not cut, because there will always be an urge for it, because oddly enough it does work, but for what it leaves behind (the scars) don;t make it worth it.
My skin under a black light scares me, because with a black light, you can see all the scars, even the ones that have faded.
I just wanted to say that I never had realized how much it hurts parents when their children cut themselves. Up until the last couple of months, I had been cutting myself. I guess it was a way to sort of release all my anger and frustration. My mom knew about me doing this, and she suggested counseling. But I didn't want to see a counselor. Eventually, my friends were the main people who made me face the reality of what I was doing. Now, as I look over this web page, I can see that it emotionally affects parents almost as much as kids. But one mistake that alot of people (especially parents) make is that we are doing it for attention. We're not. For me, it was because I was unsure of myself, and I didn't really see that I was worthy of such a great family and great life. Thank you so much...websites like these help everyone. Sarah
Dear Berkely Parents Network,
I stumbeled on to your site while doing reseach for my college speech class. I read many of the messages from the parents of teenage kids who have been cutting themselves and felt obligated to reply to all of them. I'm 18 and I started cutting myself at the beginning of this year. I have since gotten help and support and now I'm fairly happy and definately cut free. I cut for about 3 months, and now have scars on my legs, ankles and feet. When I was asked why I cut, I didn't even know myself, I just knew I felt better after I cut. I finally came to the conclusion that I was cutting because my friends, mainly my boyfriend, all had major problems going on in their lives that I couldn't fix, and I felt that if they were suffering that I needed to also. My boyfriend at the time, tried to kill himself twice, a real good friend of mine was suffering from belemia and cutting, and another friend was suffering from parental induced stress. For some reason, I had it in my head, that if I cut and caused pain to myself, that I could make their pain go away, and of course it didn't. When my friends found out, they were such a big help. They are most of the reason that I quit. Anytime I felt like cutting, I could call them and talk to them. My friend that was cutting made a pact with me that she would call me and that I could call her, and believe it or not it actually worked. I had to face the fact that I couldn't help everyone if I couldn't help myself, and even then I couldn't help everybody. I thought long and hard about my triggers, and had to get rid of them. Unfortunately that meant ending my relationship with my boyfriend. He refuses to talk about his problems with other people, and it is sort of understandable considering what little information he did share with me about his problems. I found out that he had tried to kill himself close to 14 times, and was hospitalized for a while because of it. He is on medication for depression but his depression is so deep, that I don't really think that the medicine will ever completely help, and this is why I had to end it. I couldn't handle the stress of worrying about him succeding, and me waking up to the news that he had done so. Talking to my mom really helped too. She had suspected it, but wanted me to come to her and was glad when I did. We talked about why I was doing it, then set up an appointment with my doctor. I'm now on medication for depression and I'm living a pretty normal life now. I want to let all of the parents know that there is hope. Talk with your teens and let them know that you care and that you will get through this together. I know I needed all of the support that I could get. Thanks for taking the time to read this.
Sincerely, 18, Texas
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