my 12 year old daughter has started causing herself pain because she is depressed.

Abby May - posted on 04/20/2012 ( 35 moms have responded )

6

1

0

my daughter is depressed and she says that if she can withstand the pain she causes herself when she scratches her arm with her nails or a sharp rock she can withstand anything life throws at her. im very worried abut her. she says that the pain makes her stronger. is she right? please give me advice on hat i can do for her

MOST HELPFUL POSTS

Kay - posted on 04/20/2012

377

19

111

Abby May, I have become personally acquainted with the phenomenon of cutting as my family has dealt with it with my younger sister. I would like to share some information with you, but I wanted to warn you first--some of this is going to be tough to read, I think. But I also strongly believe that it is important for it to be said, or trust me, I wouldn't have spent so much time typing this up.

No, she is not right, and she needs help.

How is cutting herself with a sharp rock making her stronger? It's opening up serious risks to blood poisoning.

I have posted this before, but here is a rundown on the life of a serious cutter--which is where your daughter is headed.

What your daughter is experiencing when she cuts is a natural phenomenon that our bodies are programed to do in reaction to pain. The pain triggers the release of endorphins, which are designed to relax the body so that the victim in trouble can take time to evaluate the situation and understand what is hurting them and how to get away without panicing and potentially injuring themselves worse. This is, as I said, a natural reaction.

What's the problem with cutting then, since it is based on a natural reaction?

A person that begins cutting seriously--that is, to deal with major issues in life like depression--is not using the endorphins for their natural effect. How could they? They themselves are the one that is inflicting this pain. It is not unexpected, there is no need to panic, and they are not trying to escape from it.

Instead, they are using this natural reaction as a type of drug, much like people self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. And like drugs, cutting gradually progresses. The body becomes used to the pain--just like it would become used to small amounts of alcohol or cocaine or heroine--and over time, a little cut is no longer enough. Not cutting becomes less and less of an option. It becomes an addiction.

Suicide is not usually a major risk in cutters. They are not doing trial runs--this is actually their coping strategy for their life. Instead, because of the progressive and addictive nature, they may cut too much, and lose too much blood. Or they may use something dirty--like a rock or rusted razor or bottlecap from the ground--and contract blood poisoning. If the depression is never dealt with, then yes, they are at serious risk of progressing to the point of trying to take their own lives, if they reach a point where they feel no release from endorphins.

The last time my sister cut, she used the blade from a pencil sharpener she found in a makeup kit. She cut herself 67 times, several of them deep enough to require stitches. Two became seriously infected. She is 21 years old. She started with scratching herself when she was in her early teens.

The good news? This doesn't have to be your daughter's case.

The really good news? She's already talking to you about it. She's reaching out and saying, "Mom, help me," in a way that she can't in actual words.

And the best news? She probably hasn't progressed to the point where it is an addiction if she has only just started.

Too many parents write this behavior off as teenage angst. This is NOT normal teenage behavior, and it should never be allowed to continue. Do some cutters quit on their own? Absolutely. But loads of them also don't. I know I would not want to take that risk with my sons, and I am seriously encouraging you not to do so with your daughter.

A therapist who is trained to deal with teenage girls would be a great starting place. They will help her learn REAL coping strategies, strategies that build her up and help her become the woman you are raising her to be. If you are active in a church or religious organization, they may have great suggestions for you. If not, perhaps reach out to your daughter's school, as they too may have suggestions.

Abby May, let me leave you with this last bit of advice. This is NOT your fault. This is a pervasive adolescent trend, and it is a scary one. This is NOT something you have done wrong as a mother. This IS an opportunity to show your daughter how much you love and support her, and help her take the step towards becoming a healthy adult free of addictions.

I wish you the absolute best, and please feel free to reach out to me if you ever need someone to talk to.

Kay

Kelsey - posted on 04/22/2012

1

0

0

I am not actually a mom yet. I joined this site to follow a college classmate's pregnancy and growth, and I still find the articles interesting. I say this because I want to make clear that this was a very recent experience for me as well.

I want your daughter to know something. As a former cutter myself, yeah, it helps with the given situation. Looking back, I still believe it made me stronger. I understand that, and in a sense, it will. That doesn't make cutting a long-term solution. Kay is absolutely right - it DOES become an addiction, for the very reasons she described. This is a modern use for a *very* effective primal defense mechanism. However, even when you finally do want to stop, it becomes an even greater challenge than the Depression ever was. I know I was terrified when a concerned teacher first introduced me to a councillor during high school, to the point where I lied and hid what I had done even from her. I missed a valuable opportunity that would have saved me a lot of stress later in life.

Your daughter may also be scared to be labelled as having a problem, or may, as she said, simply just feel as if it will make her stronger if she deals with it on her own. She may not have come to the point yet where she realizes what she's really trying to accomplish, be it to fill a gap, block something out, or any one of the millions of personal reasons each of us has for starting this habit. Finding and understanding that deeper reason is a very personal, very challenging journey.

That healing journey is where the real strength comes from.

What broke the spell for me was when my boyfriend hugged me after calling me out on the scar on my arm. Everyone I had tentatively reached out to before that gave me, what I felt to be anyways, cheap pitty answers about "aww, well, if you ever need to talk..." I had always needed someone do DO something, not say something. I can tell you now that even though I am going through a stressful period that as recently as two years ago would have sent me scrambling for a razor, for the first time since 2003 I am not even slightly tempted to cut because someone finally gave me something better - that hug.

I'm sorry I can't address you properly hun', but please know that I say this with the utmost respect to you and your struggle:

Find a councellor. If you don't click with one, keep looking until you find one you are comfortable with. There are so many other options out there - my one instructor called the complementary health field a "cafeteria of choices" - that I promise you will find something more rewarding than cutting. I am a fan of Reiki and crystals now, but there is Journalling, Art Therapy, Music therapy, yoga, nutrition, dance, pet therapy, and the list goes on and on.

This experience HAS made you stronger. You are going to continue to get stronger.

There are a lot of people cheering for you hun'. I wish you the best on your healing journey. *hugs*.

~Kelsey.

Sarah - posted on 04/21/2012

1,258

14

164

All due respect Ashley, but that is the worst advice I have ever heard. Take her to a councillor, they can help her realize how self destructive this is and help her learn a healthier way to cope with life.

Dove - posted on 04/22/2012

11,620

0

1348

Ashley, depression is not pathetic and it can cause a person to do some very crazy things. It is very, very real and left untreated can have fatal consequences. I truly hope you can change your perspective because if one of your children ever ends up suffering from depression they are going to NEED your help and calling a 12 year old child pathetic for dealing with their pain in an inappropriate manner is just going to make the situation worse. :(

Sarah - posted on 04/24/2012

1,258

14

164

DEPRESSION is caused by a chemical change in the body. Medications normalized the hormones that are unbalanced. Would you give your child chemo if she had Cancer? Would you give her antibiotics for an ear Infection? Then why not treat a mental health condition? There is also a difference in treating depression and treating the cutting. The cutting is not an illness, it Is a symptom of an illness. She may need treatment for depression, which may or may not involve medications, but the greater issue to address right now is treating the SYMPTOM of cutting by giving her psychosocial counseling and teaching her new coping skills so that she isn't doing something destructive to her body.

35 Comments

View replies by

Diane - posted on 06/02/2012

24

0

0

ashley,

i truly fear for any child you have. this is not said in meanness, but in hoping you will wake up to the ignorance that you are letting lead you.please do the slightest bit or research and understand that even if you think some one is "merely" seeking attention they certainly need some attention...its an indication that something is dreadfully wrong.

Amanda - posted on 04/25/2012

37

7

1

Cynthia... it is possible your cousin was not taking medications properly or maybe they just hadn't found her the right medication. I don't have all the details... but treatment does not just mean pills... it can mean a variety of things. For Abby may's daughter, a good place to start is a counselor... but at some point she may need pills. It just depends on her situation. But depression is a chemical imbalace... or you could say that it isn't firing right in the brain. It could be very serious.

Janet - posted on 04/24/2012

89

2

6

noooo - she has a disorder. She needs to see a psychiatrist or pyschologist to help her - that's the way U could help her

Pam - posted on 04/24/2012

4

0

0

No matter what your daughter is telling you, you cannot take it at face value. She is going to tell you what she thinks you want to hear. As I tell my daughter's dealing with my grandchildren "You are the Mother", it is up to you as an adult to make the decision concerning what is best for your child. I strongly suggest that you take your daughter to a therapist, she may not like it at first but if you continue to take her eventually she will open up and talk to her/him. If she doesn't like the therapist then take her to another one, above all don't give up. I have dealt with depression all my life and wish that I had gotten to a therapist when I was a child, but I didn't so I am dealing with it now.

Best wishes to you and your daughter.

Laura - posted on 04/24/2012

69

0

3

She needs counseling NOW. Be loving and supportive. Cynthia is right that medicating at THIS AGE is probably the wrong thing as there are terrible side effects when kids take anti depressants but you can't ignore this. There are lots of counselors that offer pay to income so don't let finances be a deterrent. This is important. Good luck.

Celeste - posted on 04/24/2012

7

8

3

Get her help now!!!!. I began cutting on myself when I was a senior in high school. It started with just using a safety pin and sometimes punching the wall and the floor. Then I started using a knife and scissors. She cuts not because it makes her stronger but because the physical is easier to deal with then the emotional and there is a calming of emotions after you cut. But it will escalate. You want to get her help now before it gets worse. This isn't her decision she is 12 take her to a therapist and pyschiatrist. I was hospitalized 3 different times before I found a good therapist. I haven't cut myself since 2003. Also let her know that you love her no matter what. Don't discipline her for cutting. I hope this helps. You are not alone and there is help. This can be overcome.

Cynthia - posted on 04/24/2012

84

10

4

I'm just against medicating depression...I know what depression is I've done so much research trying to help my cousin..first time she cut herself she was 14..after that she started taking anti depressants then anxiety pills then pain pills by the time we were in our 30's she had attemted suicide 8 times...pills were not helping her never did..she killed herself a few years ago and it's a pain that will never go away...I struggle not being able to help her...I know if she went to counseling as much as the doctors were giving her those pills she would be here today...maybe pills work for others but I just feel they started her on pills too young..

Catherine - posted on 04/24/2012

4

4

0

AS soon as I found out my daughter was punching herself to the point she couldn't walk and then started cutting we headed for the counselors, who gave her strategies to deal with her stress and depression and was put on medication...within a few months she was back to normal and able to control what being 15 is in this world and that takes a lot of pressure, as adults we really do not have a clue what stress they are under to"perform" at school and at home. and with their friends, and some kids just feel inadequate to handle it all, cutting is a sympton of the problem, seek counseling, for her, this is not her choice this is your responsibility as a parent to make her into a responsible and controlled adult, You will find, even after the anger subsides, that you will be glad you did, because she will be able to handle what life throws at her and also that has a mom that is strong enough to do what has to be done.

Cynthia - posted on 04/24/2012

84

10

4

"Treated" dosnt mean just pills but there's still pills involved...which in my opinion changes the person and alot of times for the worst...besides how can you deal with anything when the pills take over especially for a twelve year old...too many parents listen to their doctors about situations like this when they should be seeking advice from a counselor who's willing to help n get to the problem not masking it with pills...

Kay - posted on 04/23/2012

377

19

111

"Treated" doesn't just mean pills. "Treated" means a cohesive treatment plan, that involves counseling to develop positive coping strategies, and medical intervention if necessary. Saying that "treated" just means pills is a huge assumption, in my opinion...

Cynthia - posted on 04/23/2012

84

10

4

If ur babygirl really believes that by hurting herself physically she can withstand pain life throws at her then she should be able to be strong enough to withstand it emotionally...I would find out what happened that made her depressed...it could be shameful or embarassing or maybe scary whatever it may be she should talk bout it..it's good to get some counseling but when people say she should get "treated" it just means "pills"...that's the last thing u should do to a 12 yr old..she just needs to talk bout what's happened in her life to cause her depression....My 8 yr old got so mad at me bout a year ago that she started hitting herself...I spanked her lil bottom n told her if she wants to feel pain I will spank her harder...I don't spank my kids but that was the last time she did that...I kno moms won't agree but that's what I felt helped me at the moment plus I would rather give my kids a spanking than pills that will change their persona... share experiences u may have had as a young girl that were scary or embarrasing help her to open up...Praying is always good...I will say a prayer for you n ur babygirl...God Bless....

Stifler's - posted on 04/22/2012

15,141

154

604

Self mutilation is serious. That might be her understanding and reasoning right now but is harming her self an actual solution to a problem or is it just going to do more damage to her body and self esteem ? I agree with everyone else she needs professional help.

[deleted account]

Ashley, no one knows I self-injur except on here where it is relatively anonymous. I don't discuss it with anyone and neither my mother nor my child nor my closest friends know. It is not done for attention and anyone who mocks the pain of a young person by calling them pathetic is reminiscent of that famous pot & kettle.

Angel - posted on 04/22/2012

3

0

0

I am no expert, but this sounds dangerously depressed to me. Talk with your pediatrician about this right away! If you are a praying person, I highly recommend the book, "The Power of a Praying Parent' by Stormie Omartian. I used this book as my mom's bible to raise all 3 of mine with great results.

Amanda - posted on 04/22/2012

37

7

1

Dove you are right... it would only send her further into the behavior. Lots of information can be found on this topic. There are different types of self injurous behaviors... but this is one of the most common for girls. Because I was ignored and no one got me treatment... I was lost most of my life... it was a horrible feeling. Anyone who does not see it as a call for help, or a way out needs to do more research. It is serious.

Amanda - posted on 04/22/2012

37

7

1

To Ashley Phil's:



I have to disagree... I have see that idea go wrong too many times. I HATE my biological mother for doing just that... What a teen shows you is just the tip of the ice burg in many cases. Not seeking treatment early can lead to continuing problems... if it is not treated it gets worse. This can be a sign of multiple mental health concerns... including bipolar!

Sarah - posted on 04/22/2012

1,258

14

164

Sorry, didn't mean to hit the funny button Kelsey. I though what you said was helpful, insightful, and well spoken. Thanks for your Help!

Sarah - posted on 04/22/2012

1,258

14

164

You sound ignorant Ashley. Your comments here are not only not helpful, but completely ignorant of what cutting is about. It is not an attention seeking behaviour, it is a mental health issue. Any parent whose child is a struggling with an issue such as this has an OBLIGATION to seek help for their child, not ignore it and hope it goes away. If you parent your children this way, I fear for their future and relationships.

Ashley - posted on 04/22/2012

12

0

0

I don't think she is crying out for help. Someone who does that is pathetic b/c that's a horrible way to get attention. There is probably some other reason she is doing it.

Ivy - posted on 04/22/2012

180

13

1

Counselling is the first step. My friend was cutting at that age and I don't know if she's stopped yet. We are in our 30's now. She had done it at least 10 years with no help. Seeing the scars as she grows up may make her even more depressed as everyone has their idea of beauty and most people don't like scars. Tell her you love, why you love her and that you're getting her help to deal with life. She may not tell you what is bothering, but telling a complete stranger can really help as s/he has no emotional investment her life. S/he can be more objective.

Diane - posted on 04/21/2012

24

0

0

to Ashley Phils:

no way. im sorry, i know youre trying to help, but a child who is crying out for help needs an adult to follow through with getting that help/

Diane - posted on 04/21/2012

24

0

0

"cutting" is a physiological outlet to an emotional problem. Get her help now, and she will likely be fine. wait too long, and she will get/feel worse.
gl

Michelle - posted on 04/21/2012

1

20

0

Thank you Kay for taking the time to reach out and help someone and their family. With that said, Abby May I hope you will consider all the post and the message that they all are stating. Your daughter needs professional counseling maybe you should go as a family outside of her therapy sessions. If this behavior is not addressed your daughter could start to doing other harmful thing to herself. Because, as Kay state it is the euphoric experience your daughters is enjoying when she cuts and causes her natural endorphins to be released. When she no longer gets the experience she is used to feeling, she will find something else to try and that could be drugs. If you decide not to go to counseling as a family, I would really encourage you to go to a support group for parents or families deal with the same issue you are having with your daughter. This way you have support and you will not blame yourself, as well as you have others sharing their stories with you. You will see how others handled their family members issue around this subject. Again, I encourage you to find help for your daughter sooner than later. Your daughter’s medical doctor can help you find a therapist in your area. Good Luck

Zen - posted on 04/21/2012

40

20

0

Cut out gluten/wheat 100% for 3-6 weeks and see the improvement. An intolerance to gluten can make people depressed and even schizophrenic. It has to be 100% though, no regular soy sauce ( use tamari or braggs), no other sauces except gluten free.

Amanda - posted on 04/21/2012

37

7

1

Hmmm, very common for teenagers and young adults. My advice is to have her evaluated. This is coming from a prior cutter, a mother, and someone going to school for counseling. It only gets worse if it goes without treatment. Other than that, listen to her. The best possible thing that you can do is be observant and seek further treatment.

Dove - posted on 04/21/2012

11,620

0

1348

Seriously Ashley?! This is a 12 year old child doing something that can end up being extremely dangerous to herself. Just 'let her deal with life the way she wants to'... and potentially end up dead?!



I'm so sorry Abby! My stepsister is bipolar and was a cutter as a teen. I was no longer in the house, so I'm not sure what all our parents did. I do know it was pretty much a constant struggle with her at times living in a residential home.



My advice? Start making calls on Monday (start with her doctor) to find her some help asap. I know she doesn't want help, but she NEEDS it. See if her doctor knows the name and number of a good counselor that has experience with cutters. YOU go talk to the counselor first and hopefully they will point you in a direction that will help your daughter.

Ashley - posted on 04/21/2012

12

0

0

At that point I know you should let her deal with it herself. If she says she has it under control and won't get worse then trust her. Trust is the best thing. I understand you being concerned for her, but let her deal with life the way she wants to.

Abby May - posted on 04/21/2012

6

1

0

thank yall so much. i told her some of the things yall have said but all she said was thats not me. im not like that. and she said she was hearing me but she wasnt going to listen. is there anything i can do?

[deleted account]

Speaking as someone who has in the past done self-injury I can tell you that we don't do it for the reasons she gave you. People who hurt themselves on purpose are trying to control soemthing in their life or are dealing with major trauma or both. This may be agreat time to seek professional help.

Sarah - posted on 04/20/2012

1,258

14

164

Cutting is not a way to make yourself stronger. It actually is a sign of poor coping with stress. Get her some professional help Please!

Join Circle of Moms

Sign up for Circle of Moms and be a part of this community! Membership is just one click away.

Join Circle of Moms