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My daughter is cutting herself

Nov 2012

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 can understand why this is a confusing situation, you are doing your utmost to assess its gravity and to react with a measured, appropriate response. With all due respect, your daughter is in over her head and you are not far behind. Your daughter needs a hand, not more rope, in my humble opinion, to pull herself back up from an increasing dark place.

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 suggest you consult with David Franklin, an excellent local therapist who specializes in teens and cutting: http://www.davidfranklinmft.com. anon

11 year old cutting herself

Oct 2011

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


Take your daughter to Dr. Maria Steelman in Lafayette. She is a pediatrician, a mother to 2 teens at Acalanes, and has a lot of teenage patients in her practice so is experienced with stress behaviors like cutting and drinking. She will talk straight to you and your daughter and have a ton of good advice. She owns Lafayette Pediatrics off Mt Diablo Blvd, 925-287-0120. Ariele
I have 14 years old daugther and she went through similar situation early this year. She did not get outside help BUT we spent lots of time talking about school, friends, etc. It was not easy. We learned that there was another kid at school doing same thing and my daughter acutally helped her by talking and sharing her story with her. I am happy to have my daughter to talk to your daughter if you want.

Worried about college student who used to be a cutter

Jan 2007

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


Thanks for writing to help out a friend. This young girl's issues did not start when she went to college this year. I would emphasize counseling for the whole family especially the biological father making demands on his daughter who is not healthy. (Cutting past or present is not healthy, bad grades mean she needs some kind of help and fewer negative pressures.)

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.


Questions from 2 moms whose daughters are cutting

May 2006

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


Hi
my daughter has been struggling with cutting the last couple of years and we want to find an east bay support group and/or a residential program she can attend to support her in freeing herself of this behavior and way of dealing with stess and pain. I would love ideas from people whose kids have or are struggling with this issue, or if you work in this field with teens. Thanks!

Look for a therapist who specializes in this behavior. I cut myself in high school and all the way through college and have the scars to prove it. for me, it was a way of having control of my feelings, I felt like the blood was a physical manifestation of the anger inside. I had been abused by a cleaning man at age 10, my mother was an alcoholic, and I was expected to be a high achieving teen. Cutting was an exterior manifestation of interior pain. I even left my razor blades on my dresser as a cry for help. My mother may have noticed them and asked me about them but was satisfied with my answer that they were for an art project (?!). Years of therapy, yoga and parenthood have helped me come to terms with some of the grief and anger. But I didn't get help until after college. Your daughter can be helped sooner. My heart goes out to you and her. It's wonderful that you are seeking help/support.
You are talking about cutting her body and not her classes, right? If it's her body -- I agree with your husband -- get her to a doctor ASAP. If it were MY daughter I would have her at her pediatrician's last week. Unless you are trained in dealing with this, you are WAY out of your league. Good luck -- but for the grace of the godess I go as I have a 14yr old and an 8 yr old daughter myself. Another Parent of Daughters
I think you are being naive. My daughter was cutting, also in her 13th year. When I learned of it, I thought she had done it once, or maybe a few times. I was very alarmed, though, and we started with a therapist asap (within one week). This freaked her out a bit, but let her know we were serious about helping her. During the very helpful counselling process, I was shocked to learn that she had been cutting for months, and had done it quite a lot. It seems this is common; what we as parents learn or observe is the tip of a much bigger iceberg. When I learned of the larger extent of the problem, I was really glad we reacted fairly strongly and didn't wait and see if things got better, which I had been considering.

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


Although I know each child is different, I can say that therapy probably literally saved my daughter's life. We learned from one of her teachers that she was cutting when she was 13. While both my husband and I had enjoyed a close relationship with our daughter, we had absolutely no clue, none, that she was cutting, or that she was clinically depressed. We learned the hard way that she was very good at hiding her behaviors and her symptoms and that this is unfortunately not a unique situation among teen girls.

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


This is to both the parents of daughters who posted that their daughters were cutting themselves. This has got to be one of the scariest things to learn that your daughter is doing! My daughter did it too. She started when she was around 13 (7th grade). It was a big shock and I made a big deal out of it because I was scared and I knew that there must be some deep-seated issues for her to do this. She was feeling pretty bad about her life (depressed, poor body image, hated school, having a hard time with friends, etc.), so going to therapy seemed like it might help her. She was really reluctant to talk to anyone but me about her inner thoughts and feelings, but I told her that I didn't know what to do about some of this stuff and needed help. We went to therapy. We found a really nice woman who she felt comfortable with. (I will be ever gratful to this woman.) Things got worse before they got better though. She is on anti-depressants, and as much as I hate her using them, it has really made a good change in her life. I'm not saying that your daughters are ''clincally'' depressed or should go on drugs, but I think cutting is a sure sign of underlying issues that need to be dealt with through any and all means possible (therapy, journaling, meditation, art/art therapy, excersize/ sports, drugs-if necessary, full-out programs-if you have too). You just don't want her to stuff her feelings down. It's good that your daughter gets mad, at least she is expressing herself. Mine wasn't and still doesn't very much, but we have learned to talk about things more. As far as having a great summer planned out for the 13 year-old, I think that's great, but don't forget to keep talking with her about her feelings. Middle school is horrible (in my experience) and the things that were bothering her during the year may get better over the summer, but could come back when school starts again. I think learning a way to relax is important too. Life can be VERY stressful for our kids and they don't know how to deal with it, or shield themselves from outside negitive energies. And yes, they are VERY sensitive to anything perceived as critcism, we really have to watch what we say, and apologize a lot! Anyway, two years later she's not cutting anymore and is happier, started high school and is making it though the first year in one piece! Same for me...I think there is no roadmap to this process, but there are resources out there to utilize, and give them LOTS of LOVE. Check the BPN for resources or ask about programs through the web or therapist. I hope my story has helped in some little way. Best of luck.
To the parents who wrote about their child cutting and wondering whether to seek therapy for her. My advice is to run, not walk, to a therapist. This behavior is addictive and typically goes along with depression and other issues. My daughter started using a thumb tack two years ago to cut on her arms and has now progressed to razors. She herself even asked the question of how she got to this point.

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


Speaking as an LCSW who has worked with many people struggling with self-injury I feel it is important that you get the support that your family needs in regard to your daughter's cutting. Cutting is a behavior that needs to be taken very seriously. Much of the time it is not associated with suicide. The danger is that people can accidentally cut in a way that can lead to serious injury or death. This behavior can also change from a controllable activity to an addictive or compulsive behavior. It is important to keep in mind that this behavior is a way of coping with overwhelming feelings of anger, sadness and pain. People can learn to self-sooth and express their feelings in safe ways. Psychotherapy is usually necessary in order to treat this behavior and it's accompanying emotional and traumatic issues. Many teens feel uncomfortable with the idea of therapy and it is very possible that your daughter may be able to meet several therapists and find one she feels comfortable with. It may also be important for you and your husband to begin working with a therapist even if your daughter is not ready to. This may help you deal with the stress of this situation as well as learning and being able to model safe ways of self-soothing, coping with emotions and communicating in interpersonal relationships. Berkeley Parents Network is a good place to get names of therapists who work with teens and families. Your daughter's doctor is another possible referral source as is the Alameda County Mental Health Access line (510) 535-4170. sara
My daughter who is now 18 and in college was a cutter. This was not her only problem but our advice from therapists to ''just ignore it and try not to focus on it'' was not good advice. For a variety of reasons, not all related to cutting, we did end up in a residential treatment program. That was extremely helpful but also a person who made a big difference for us was the local therapist we saw when she returned home. He's in Lafayette and his name is Tim Brown (925) 937-3999. If you're interested in therapy, but he's not convenient, I'm sure he could provide other referrals. At least at the time that we were going through this, there weren't any support groups that fit this problem. Be wary of online support groups - they often provide better advice on how to cut. The one thing we learned is that cutting by itself is not the problem - there are other issues behind it and with the proper treatment, those can be explored.

Seeking support for 14-year-old daughter who is cutting herself

June 2004

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


You might try to contact Kirsten Beuthin. She is a therapist who works with teens who self-injure and has a group that focuses on coping with this. Her number is 652-0990.
My daughter starting cutting at 14 too and we were fortunate to have Kaiser - who has a great support group for teens who are self injuring. There was also a group for parents which was extremely helpful. When she was actively cutting we resorted to checking her everyday - when we found she had cut again we talked about why (triggers, etc), but there isn't really anything you can do other than that and hide every sharp object you can find. Eventually, she stopped cutting all together - she thinks it's dumb now - but you always worry. What you have to watch for is when the cutting starts to change, get's deeper, etc. That's when you have to step up the intervention. My daughter eventually ended up at Herrick for 3 days, not because she tried suicide but because she couldn't stop cutting and feeling like hurting herself. The hospitalization helped in that she saw so many other girls going through the same thing - some worse than she - and it scared her. She didn't want to go back there and she began to work in therapy. We also found that yoga helped, it was calming and she would feel more balanced. I couldn't find any outside (of Kaiser) group that was teen centered and we really researched it. The main thing is to keep checking your daughter even though it feels awful - cutting, besides being a kind of control/self medicating thing, is also a way to get the adults attention. They want lots of it despite their saying the opposite. Hang in there it will get better and continue reaching out because talking with other parents going through the same thing really helps. anon
Dear Mom of 14 year old girl who is cutting herself:

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.

Anonymous

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


Daughter cut a star into the top of her hand

April 2002

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.~


I am a clinical psychologist responding to the question about teen girls and cutting. This is not a regular teen thing, although teens do sometimes cut themselves. When this occurs, it often happens when they are depressed and are unable to feel. They do this to feel "something." The sign she cut may be a meaningful symbol to her. While I wouldn't immediately assume that she is seriously troubled, I would advise taking this seriously and checking it out. Even though she says it is nothing, I would tell her that you are concerned and that you want her to see a therapist for a "wellcheck" just to make sure that all is okay. Joan Wenters, Ph.D.
I would take any cutting very seriously. It is quite widespread these days (according to some therapists) but that doesn't mean it is harmless. It can be an expression of internal pain; rather than discussing it or working on it they make it into an external pain which is supposedly less painful than the internal. If my kid was doing any cutting I would find a competent therapist immediate. My daughter didn't do cutting but she was in treatment with many kids who did. Anonymous
To the parent asking about teen "cutting"... When our son was in 6th or 7th grade, he came home from King with many thin cut lines on the top of his hand. I asked him what had happened and he claimed he had fallen and skidded and tried to stop the fall with his hand. It was obvious to me that he was covering the real story. I waited until the next day to talk to him since, I too, needed to get advice on how to handle it. I never asked him the "real story", but just calmly explained to him that I knew he had cut himself on purpose, and that when people do that, it means that they have some heavy duty emotional problems that need to be talked out. I explained that perhaps this was done as an experiment by himself or a friend (which I heard kids will do) but then I proceeded to let him know that if I ever saw that he cut himself again, I would take that as a very serious sign and I would immediately line up an appointment with a counselor. He never came home with cut marks again. But, about 2 months after that, in Kings newsletter, they did mention that lots of kids are doing it, especially females, and of course to get help if it does continue. Hope this helps and Good Luck. It's scary I know. Anon
Regarding posting from the mother of the teen who had cut the star inside the circle on her hand - the mother may also want to do an Internet search on self-injury resources. Self-cutting is generally a mask for larger problems, since it's a way of manifesting control in a self-destructive way, as is anorexia (also, the star in a circle sounds like a "Goth" symbol, which is a completely separate issue). The mother may want a referral to a therapist who specializes in teens. My own teen, who had a number of problems, though cutting wasn't one of them, reported that there was a lot of cutting among teens in general, and this will be confirmed if you talk to local therapists who see teens in their practice. In many cases, the cutting is hidden under clothing, so at least her daughter cut an area that the mother could see. That sounds like a call for help. Something is going on; cutting oneself isn't a trivial matter. Self-mutilation by cutting or burning frequently begins in adolescence and may continue for a lifetime if the behavior is left untreated. It can cause permanent scarring, blood loss, infection (including HIV and Hepatitis C if kids are involved in "cutting parties" involving shared implements), even death. It is psychologically dangerous. There are a number of books on the subject that have been published recently: "Cutting - Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation" by Steven Levanton; " The Bright Red Scream," by Marileee Strong; and "Bodies Under Siege" by Armando Favazza. Anonymous

Replies from teens who cut

Editor Note: these messages were sent anonymously from teens who read this web page and wanted to share their experience.


Dec 2008

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.


July 2006

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


June 2006

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..


February 2006

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.


December 2004

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


October 2004

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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