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lovemydaughter
lovemydaugh... asks:
Q:

My 13 year old daughter is cutting herself. Please someone, tell me how to talk to her and help her.

I've done some research on this subject already, but am more confused than ever as to how to help my daughter.
She has been cutting herself since 5th grade, but I didn't know about it until just a few months ago. She cut herself, we sought counseling, she wouldn't talk to the outside counselor, but did talk to her school counselor. He "seemed" to have helped her. She was doing better in school, joined the track team and seemed generally "happier" and seemingly on a "positive" trend. Just this morning however, I found out she is doing it again. She say's she does it to ease the pain but absolutely refuses to talk to me about what the pain is. She told me she did it last night after I came in her room and yelled at her to clean her room. She say's it's not me that causes her to cut, but I can't help but wonder what I've done wrong. I know it's not productive to blame myself, so I won't. But, I am at a loss as to how to handle this. I told her we need a game plan because she is obviously "not OK". She said not to say that and she is fine. She also refuses to talk to a counselor again. I took her out for drive tonight hoping to talk to her but it just seemed to backfire and now is not talking at all and in her room under the blankets with the light off. I just feel so helpless and terribly afraid. I'm literally sick to my stomach with fear of her hitting a vein and bleeding to death. Please someone, tell me how to talk to her and help her. Thanks for reading.
In Topics: Cutting
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Boys Town National Hotline
May 19, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

I'm so glad you wrote about what your daughter and you are going through.  It's not surprising that you are feeling sick and uneasy about her behavior lately.  It's very scary as a parent to find out your child is harming themself.  You are exactly right that by your daughter using cutting as a coping skill for when things aren't going well, she's telling you that she's not ok.  Typically most teens or kids that cut themselves aren't doing it as a suicide attempt, but only to release or feel pain in a different way than they are currently experiencing it.  They usually don't have the proper coping skills to deal with uncomfortable feelings, so they cut as a way to numb their real feelings.  

For teens, cutting can become a habit and a very dangerous one.  Like you stated, kids usually don't realize that it's very easy for them to cut too deep or too far, and that the wound can easily become infected or need medical attention.  By the time it gets that far, they are usually too embarassed or afraid they will get in trouble to talk to an adult about it.  It's great that you are trying to talk to your daughter about this now to help her from doing any permanent or serious damage to herself in the future.  Find out what she is using to cut herself and make sure that it is not accessible to her.  If she uses razors, lock them in your bathroom and tell her she needs to ask permission to take one in the shower with her when she needs to shave.  That may seem invasive, but her safety needs to come first.

It sounds like your daughter is afraid to speak to an outside counselor about her cutting.  However, because of the dangers of cutting it's important to find someone that she will be able to discuss it with.  If she's comfortable talking to her school counselor, set up an appointment to meet with him again.  If the school counselor suggests that she needs something more intensive, ask him for a referral.  Ask your daughter if she would feel more comfortable working with a younger counselor?  Call a few counseling agencies and explain what you are looking for and ask if they have a counselor that would fit your daughters needs?  

Remember that you can try working with a few different counselors until your daughter finds one that she feels comfortable with.  Allowing her to be in the decision making process will make her more likely to be willing to talk to someone.  

You're doing a great job reaching out for help.  If you want to talk to a crisis counselor more in depth about your situation, please feel free to call us anytime.

Boys Town National Hotline
1-800-448-3000

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Additional Answers (80)

lovemydaughter
lovemydaugh... writes:
Thank you so much for your quick response to my situation. I do appreciate it so much. It's a very scary situation to be in and it's so nice to know there are people out there willing to offer their help. All I had to do was type and ask, and there is a response. It's wonderful.
So today was a better day, but I know from experience that depression has it's ups and downs. I still don't know the source of my daughter's pain, but am doing everything I know to get her help.
I talked to a crisis hotline this morning for over 2 hours and the person I spoke to really listened and helped me come up with a game plan. This person also helped me to see my daughter is not the only one who needs to talk to someone, I do as well. I have an appt in 2 days, and so does my daughter. I made my daughter clean her room today and told her it would make her feel better. I also wanted her to find the razor she swore she "can't find" that she used to cut herself with. She of course didn't agree and just seemed hateful and angry from the moment I picked her from track practice after school. She cleaned her room and even purged some old stuff out of her closet. She even miraculously found the razor blade and brought it to me. Afterwards, she seemed lighter. Hmmm, maybe "boring old mom" isn't so "dumb" after all...But seriously, afterwards, I took her grocery shopping with me and oddly enough she became very open in the store and even after we got home. It was her idea do research her own "problem" online *together*. She said she doesn't "want" to do it again, but is honestly not sure if she can stop. I told her she needs to talk to somebody and she is reluctant, but not completely against it. She is going either way to her appt in 2 days. I know I can only do so much for her and have to rely on outside help to help get us through. I will sleep good tonight knowing she is not angry (tonight) and hermatizing in her room.
I guess I just have to take it one day at a time.
Again, thanks so much for responding. I know tonight is a good night, but tomorrow could be a different story. If anyone else has been through this personally in any way, I would appreciate any advice I can get.
> 60 days ago

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Loddie1
Loddie1 , Parent writes:
Well, my theory is "cutting" is usually a couple of things.. It is a very hurt child and she is keeping the hurt very hidden and this is how she deals with it. Also, check out her surroundings. My (step) niece was attending a rough public school and did this very thing. She ended up cutting herself because of a mistake she made with a guy. So, I told my sister to pull her out of that school and into a private one. She ended up thriving there ( it was a Christian school). She ended up head cheerleader and the school worked with her issue in a Christian way. But simply getting her out of a bad environment would help.
> 60 days ago

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nailahtalibah
nailahtalibah writes:
I personally was once a cutter. My cutting personally had to do with how I felt about myself. Stress,anger, pressure and family conflict caused me to cut. Unfortunately for me this turned into other things. instead of trying to pressure her to talk to some one ask her to explain what triggers her need to cut. She may not know what the "pain" is that she is feeling. All she knows is that the cutting makes her feel better. This behavior can, and my case did, escalate
to drug use and sexually acting out. Find out what her triggers are and help her cope with them. She may have sensory issues.
> 60 days ago

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greenviolets
greenviolets writes:
First of all make it clear to her that you don't judge her.  Let her know that you love her no matter what and that you are there for her to make things better, not to put more pressure on her.  Tell her that you won't pressure her, but that she should know that you are there for her to talk to, or that you will help her find someone who she feels more comfortable talking to.  Don't make this about you.  Don't blame yourself; it will only make her feel worse about herself and cause her to withdraw into herself more.  More than likely she feels badly about herself already.  I know that you feel guilty, but don't voice that to her; keep the solution about her.  Relieve her of responsibilities that seem to overwhelm her.  Likely, she is feeling a lot of pressure and that she isn't good enough.  

I started cutting when I was 12 years old.  It never fully goes away.  It wasn't until I turned 25 that I finally talked to my mother openly about it.  It wasn't until then that I really made headway in overcoming this disease.  It never fully goes away, but hopefully she'll at least know you're there to help her when she feels the urge.
> 60 days ago

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CarringMother
CarringMother writes:
Dear mother, I'm teaching my son few languages and sometimes my english get stock...but I will do my best!

I'm also a mother like you. In your case what I would do is not to yield to your daughter, and do not scream to her or panic in front of your daughter.

She is going to "changes" in her body and mind. At this point you have to be her friend instead of a mom. Don't press her to talk, just give her space and open the door to her, this way she can know that she can talk to you anytime about anything.

She also needs to know that you will not panic, no matter what she tells you, and that you will resolve any issue together.

Maybe, she is looking for attention! At this age, if you tell them that they can't do this or that, they will try to do the opposite just to punish you or to show their power over your command. Don't punish or push her to do things if she doesn't want to. Give her time and explain to her as calm as possible, that you are there for her and that she can't count on you for everything, good or bad.

Also, it is very important as a parent to explain everything with details to our kids, like if we were talking to another adult, and sometimes is very important and helpful if we use examples. This way, they will visualize better what we mean.

Tell her in a very calm way the concequences she will have if she continues to behave this way and also cutting her self. Maybe she will think twice next time and put things on perspective. At this age, she has to be ready and understand that she will be the only one responsible of her actions.

My best advise, First, BE HER FRIEND, and second her mother!
> 60 days ago

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ReneeRN
ReneeRN writes:
Dear lovemydaughter:
I am in psychiatric nursing and deal with patients who use "cutting" as a way to deal with stress and anxiety.  The only thing you can do for your daughter is get her to a psychiatrist or a behavior health hospital.  She might need medications or just someone to help her identify her feelings and impulses that trigger her need to self-inflict harm by "cutting". If you daughter shows signs that could be considered suicidal(telling you she doesn't want to live anymore or giving away personal belongings) take her to the nearest hospital immediately! I would suggest that when you talk to her tell her that you love her and that you are concerned with her safety. don't say that you understand and don't ask her why... it's not going to help. It's hard to just sit back and watch your loved one do things that hurt themselves.  You need to get her help as soon as possible. I really hope this helps! If you have any other questions please feel free to ask.
Renee
> 60 days ago

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lovemydaughter
lovemydaugh... writes:
I wanted to once again thank all of you for your help on this issue!
A little update:  She is no longer cutting and is now openly talking with me and her counselor about  it.  Many of you hit the nail on the head about the issue being deep seeded pain due to many reasons such as having difficulty making friends, being made fun of and mistakes she had made with some boys. She admitted to sneaking out during the summer and I HAD NO IDEA!  I was ignorant to the issue as she would do this in the middle of the night and obviously, I was sleeping. She came to me and admitted this.  
A little history:  My daughter is bi-racial and she has always attended schools that were prodominately white. 3 years ago while in 4th and 5th grade, she got a little "pudgy". She was going through an awkward stage and many of the boys AND girls would tease her about her hair and her weight.  This caused her to have a poor self image.  In 6th grade, we moved to a different city and hence changed her school.  In 6th grade, she went through a stage where she stopped eating breakfast and would barely eat any dinner. I found out she was also not eating her lunches. She lost about 17 pounds in a 2 month period.  I took her to her pediatrician and they suggested I take her the Childrens Hospital for anorexia.  I literally had to drag her to the car kicking and screaming.  The hospital talked to her and decided not to keep her due to the fact that she wasn't dangerously underweight.  I guess that trip scared her enough to start eating again. But, she decided to go vegetarian.  This went on for about 6 months, and then over that summer, she started liking meat again.  She starting growing taller and joined track and bloomed into a beautiful young lady.  She looks more like a 20 year old woman than a 13 year old girl. It was scary for me, but I assume she probably loved the change.  This caused many boys to notice her (for the wrong reasons) and then she went from this shy, insecure little girl to this outgoing, popular, beautiful girl.  I don't think she knew how to handle the change.  I sure didn't!  She made many mistakes and the pain that was never dealt with to begin with, came back.  She still has issues with self image, but is working on it. Like I said, she meets pretty regularly with her counselor and has not cut in long time.  She has a pretty severe scar on her right wrist that she has just asked if she can get a tattoo to cover. She designed it herself.  It is a beautiful flower with the stem covering the scar, with the wording: "Love is my weapon".  I asked her what it meant. And she said that she realized she felt hate for so long and that was what kept her down.  When she started to force herself to love herself, she actually started to!  I was so touched by her analogy and am so proud of her to pull herself out of her own hell.  I know, some probably want to say to still keep an eye on her and keep getting her help and I am. She is my only child and my number 1 priority in this world and I will stop at nothing for her safety and happiness.
Now, does anyone have any words of advice on the tattoo?  I told her to give it about a year to see if the scar subsides and if she still feels in a year this tattoo is important to her, I would "consider" it.  She is 14 now and I won't consider it until she is 15, but am having difficulty with her having a permanant tattoo. On one hand, I don't want her to get the tattoo because 1) she is very young and may not want it later and 2) it's a reminder of a dark time in her life. But on the other hand, it may always be an ugly scar that is a reminder of that dark time and with the tattoo being there, it will remind her how she overcame it.

Would love some thoughts on this!  And please remember what we've been through and try not to judge me for considering this!

Thanks again!
> 60 days ago

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PinkCheerleader
PinkCheerle... writes:
Hello. I am a [teenage girl], and i do cut myself. Im so glad to hear your daughter is doing better; its nice to know there are dome parents out there who try to help their kids. When my mom recently found out i cut, she freaked and now constantly ignores me. I have cut alot deeper since then (this was probably about two monthes ago) and i now have a very bad scar on my left wrist. I do agree with letting her get the tattoo. Thats a very good idea that i might use when i get older. Please tell your daughter im very proud and i hope someday i can be like her and quit. (:
> 60 days ago

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lovemydaughter
lovemydaugh... writes:
PinkCheerleader:
I am so sorry for what you are going through. I don't know what has made you feel the need to cut, but I do know that even though it may seem impossible, you can stop.  It's all about finding another way to deal with your problems.  My daughter would have her good days and she would have her bad days.  On her bad days, she would cut to feel better.  But now, she has realized that we all have bad days, but we don't all cut to get through them. She asked me how I got through the bad days. I told her that I would first, calmly breath through the initial stress of what happened. Then, after about 30 minutes of literally FORCING myself to just sit and relax, I would take a piece of paper and write.
I would write out ONLY the good things in my life. Sometimes it was hard to come by the good things because at that time I was feeling so low.  But I would do it anyway and then, I would plan out my future. What did I want my adult life to be like? For me, it was going to college, being successful, a nice house of my own, a wonderful companion and kids. I don't know why, but for me, this worked! I would then, be relaxed enough to get up, take a shower (if I needed to) and clean my room, and even purge out old junk I no longer needed in there. I would even change it around for a different look.  Sounds weird, but again, ,for ME it worked. Just doing something POSITIVE even when I didn't want to, made me feel so much better. I think the message was, you only feel bad as long as you let yourself. Once you have calmed your adrenaline down, and forced yourself to do something positive, the negative feelings you had previously are pretty much gone. You've changed the path your mind was taking you down.  Try that (or something like that) the next time you have an episode that makes you want to cut.  My daughter took my advice too.  She is forever cleaning her room!!  I'd rather she do that then cut.  
As far as your mother ignoring you, I am very sorry about that. Again, we all have different ways of coping with stress, and maybe this is too stressful for your mother and this is HER way of dealing with it.  I won't say not to let it bother you, because I know that is unrealistic. I will say though, don't let it be another reason for you to cut. But if it is, remember, try changing the negative path your mind is taking you down and reverse the negative thinking to positive thinking AFTER you have forced yourself to relax for several minutes.
Please feel free to send me a note if you ever need advice or just someone to vent to.  I would want my daughter to find someone to talk to if she felt she couldn't come to me.  I am one of the least judgemental people you will ever know and I would be there for anyone that needed it.  Good luck sweetie, and thank you for sharing your story with me.
Nanette
> 60 days ago

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PinkCheerleader
PinkCheerle... writes:
Thanks so much for the advice. Your daughter sounds alot like me when it comes to the situation with cutting. I love writing alot so i will probably try out that idea soon. I cleaned my room alot today (im on spring break) and it kept my mind off of things pretty well. I might start trying to clean insted up cut, it keeps me occupied. Thanks again for taking the time to write back; it meens alot and is helping too. (:
-Logan.
> 60 days ago

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lovemydaughter
lovemydaugh... writes:
PinkCheerleader:
I'm glad I could help in a small way. I think just the simple fact that you are on the internet researching this disease tells me you already want to stop and that is HUGE. The first step in stopping this is admitting you have a problem and you have already taken that step.
Keep going, you have a bright future ahead of you even though you may not see it right now.  Just remember one thing, you are an adult much longer than you are a teen. This confusing time in your life will pass, I promise. If you can overcome this, imagine all the people you could help to do the same.  You can do this! Keep telling yourself things everyday that are positive and you will actually start to believe them in time. Don't give up and when you feel weak and need someone to vent to, contact me anytime.
> 60 days ago

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PinkCheerleader
PinkCheerle... writes:
You are helping in a huge way actually. I am doing alot better with it and have lost the need or want to cut. I recently found a band that is also a charity aginst self-injuring. Theyre call 'to write love on her arms'. This charity has impacted this issue more than i had thought, it is a very neat idea. They even have their own day (i cant remember what its called) on February 11th where in some schools all of the kids ar writing love on their arms to help raise awarness. Their songs have also toughed me very deeply, my favorite was written about them. Its called 'to write love on her arms' by Helio. Their website is www.twloha.com Please check it out, its a very cool thing.
Thank you Bunches.
> 60 days ago

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lovemydaughter
lovemydaugh... writes:
PinkCheerleader:
I am so glad to hear all the positive things you are saying and feeling! I can't tell you happy that makes me!  I am going to check out that website you told me about. Maybe my daughter has heard of them...but if not, maybe it would be something that could continue to help her too.  You sound very mature for your 13 years and that makes me think you really will overcome this. I hope this doesn't sound weird coming from a complete stranger, but I am very proud of you! Take care of yourself and please don't hesitate to contact me if you are feeling weak. We all have our moments! Hope all is well, and talk to you soon!  I'm so glad I could help!  :)
> 60 days ago

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JoeHayes
JoeHayes writes:
My daughter (13) has acted out twice recently.  Once threatening suicide and once by cutting herself very severely.
What I realized is that the pattern is when I become very autoritarian and unilateral.  In other words, when I'm at the end of my rope and won't hear what she is trying to tell me about why I'm making trouble for her, she acts out in this way.  It literally is my fault.
We've also taken her off all of her allergy medication, which seemed to make her feel weird and act in unusual ways.  
I don't know if this helps.  I think as they get older they need to assert more control, and in my daughter's case this is a way of doing this, especially when dad is in "just-get-it-done" mode.
God go with you.
> 60 days ago

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PinkCheerleader
PinkCheerle... writes:
Hey! Just wanted to update you; i havent been doing well, things have gone bad and i have been cutting. But not as serverly. I have told all of my close friends and they are helping me through it and slowly things are getting better. My friends are going to help me try to stop, as i wish to. So yeah. Anyways, had your daughter heard of twloha? Thatnks again for everything,
-Logan.
> 60 days ago

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Makino94
Makino94 writes:
one thing to stop her a little is sitt with her on a weekends and take her down through memorie lane.. and try to hav a mother-daughter time ig also help keep that out of her mind and it bring love in her n its might make her cry which is a good thing and it'll make he relize that she has a loving mom but she hurting her mom who love her n yet she continues to hurt hersslf

[Moderator's note: This member is a teenager who meets minimum age requirements for participation on Education.com.]
> 60 days ago

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lovemydaughter
lovemydaugh... writes:
Makino94:  Thanks for your advice-very helpful. I will try that!

Logan:
I'm sorry I haven't been checking my email lately to know you had written in.  I'm so sorry you are having a tough time.  My daughter is also having a tough time right now.  However, she is extremely motivated to change.  Her cutting has stopped completely, but her new thing is smoking cigarettes, smoking weed and sneaking out at night.  She has asked me directly to please get her into counseling. She does not want to be the story around school of "that girl who was so smart and  had so much potential, and look at her now".  She wants to be that "success story".  (her words) and I love it.  Tough times are easy to come by, but knowing you need help, admitting it to others and actually asking for it is HUGE progress!  I want to hear the same from  you. Logan, please don't let people see you as that troubled girl. Let others see you as the girl who fought through her problems and overcame them!  I suggest you talk to your mother or any other adult in your family that you feel you can trust and talk to. Tell them you can't fight this on your own. Tell them you want and "need" help!  You can be that success story!  It will take time, but trying to get through it on your own more than likely will take longer, or may not work at all. Your life is not something you want to gamble on. The thing is, cutting is only a symptom of the real problem. You need to get to the root of the problem that makes you feel you need to cut. Once you do that, you can work through it and find other ways of coping.  My daughters school counselor who has been a God send told me something that surprised me. He said, school is not the most important thing right now. Her situation (and yours) is desperate right now and a matter of life and death.  Don't be opposed to a residential treatment center. I had a very difficult time with that and do not plan on sending her anywhere right now, because I feel that is a last resort. But finding a treatment center that can help you on an "out-patient" basis, meaning, you go once or more a week for counseling and then go home.  Try googling "help for teen cutting" and you will find many sites dedicated to helping find treatment centers in your area.  Don't be afraid, the worst that could happen is that you get BETTER!  If you need any help finding a place, I would be more than happy to help. I will be checking my email daily to see if you have written in again.

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karelg
karelg writes:
Teenager self harming is becoming very common. Statistics shows the 1% of overall population has at one point in their lives inflicted a self-harming wound. This is one of such way through which someone deals with his/her problem. And now that your daughter has turn over to self-harming once again, it's even more worrying and frightening for you. But you have to stand up against all odds, and evaluate yourself besides counselor/Dr, what are those things that can trigger her to change her thoughts and actions and assuming you as your best friend to discuss all the problems whenever she gets upset, tensed or worried. This is the best course of action that person know you are aware of the situation and you are willing to talk and help if needed, but never should you push and insist.
Best wishes for your daughter...Remember, warm words and a big smile can sometimes go a long way.

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teencutter
teencutter writes:
it should pass by the end of high school,but you still need to do something,try meds. i take them,and they help me not to cut so much,also,a doctor ALWAYS helps
> 60 days ago

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josey1929
josey1929 writes:
My name is Josey i am 14 years old my self i have cut myself for multiple reasons. To ease the pain away but it doesn't help. Maybe you're daughter is at that stage where she thinks nobody cares about her if i were u i would tell her and remind her of how much u love her. My mother did no do that i had friends that told me. OR maybe she fells left out at school. Just remind you're child that she is important to you and others. And my mother finally gave up on me telling me that if i wanted so much for me to kill my self or keep hurting myself then do it she will sit there and wait to call 911. Its then i realize she gave up i don't need to starve for attention anymore. HOpe i could help and give u my piont of veiw on it!
> 60 days ago

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