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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 (82)

pandacakes1999
pandacakes1... writes:
my daughter is a self harmer she is 14 and has been for a year - she had problems at school with other girls and issues with her father also.  i do sometimes think and wonder if any of the scars are because of me and maybe there is but there is nothing we can do about it apart from support them and not get annoyed when they have done it again.  She is having counseling at the moment and is been referred to a psychiatrist for depression.  People think that children of this age do not suffer with depression but they do. I am very supportive of my daughter and talk to her as much as i can openly about her cuts and she finds it easy to talk to me.  They cannot just stop doing it as it does become a habit as soon as something goes wrong or they get upset over anything they will cut to ease the pain - my daughter has many scars which i have seen all of - she does hide them from others and it annoys me when people say they do it for attention...they don't if they did they would not hide them! i only found out as she had a breakdown at school and spoke to a teacher who eventually convinced her to tell me about it which she did has i was called into school - otherwise i would not know.  I did have an idea she was as she always wore bracelets and long sleeves and i knew she had been having problems at school which we tried to sort out. Only advice i can give is support her as much as you can buy her cream to reduce the scaring and also make sure she keeps her cuts clean - try to talk to her openly about it even if it upsets you - but don't let her see this as this is one of the reasons my daughter didn't want me to know as she didn't want me to be upset or feel like a bad mother.
> 60 days ago

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alwaysmybaby
alwaysmybaby writes:
I completely know how you feel.  I found out in May that my daughter was also cutting.  She is 12, going to be 13 in September.  I put her on antidepressants and started taking her to a therapist, but I really dont think she is talking to any adults.  I make her strip down to her bra and panties on "pop" checks before showering.  I hate being so intrusive, but my first priority is her safety.  I took all of the locks off the doors and turned her room upside down and took all sharp objects, including bobby pins.  She is a straight A student and won the glamour shots photo contest.  I take her everywhere and try to provide her with any needs, but do not accept her "brat" attitude and I try to make her accountable.  I believed everything was going great, until I walked in her room yesterday unannounced and caught her hiding something.  When I looked it her wooden box, I found 4 blades.  2 from pencil sharpeners and 2 from her razors.  I can totally empathize with you and I am also at a loss.  My daughter has never talked about how she feels when she cuts and only tells me she doesnt know why she does it.  I am a nurse of 26 years and just to put your mind at a little bit of ease, you wont bleed to death from a vein, you have to hit an artery and arteries are very deep.  My daughter is only barely cutting, not enough to leave scabs, but enough to scar.  I only hope we caught them early enough for them to stop.  Also, I am looking for a "support group" of other girls in her age group with the same problem, so maybe they can get some other ideas.
> 60 days ago

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pearson222
pearson222 writes:
I am 23 and used to cut at 12 and 13. When people say we aren't trying to kill ourselves, only use it as a pain reliever, they are absolutely right. When I did it, it was never just randomly in the day happen, it would always be triggered by a fight, insult, something hurtful, a lot of self doubt, something of the sort. I would cut to relieve the 'worthless' feeling because, some how, me cutting and controlling that physical pain gave relief of the immense emotional pain, it gave me some type of authority and control over myself, which I would never feel during that trigger. I would always feel calmer after I did it, almost accomplished. I grew up with a pretty disfunctional family life, parents divorced at 2, both remarried by three, crazy step- parents (who all are currently divorced again), most of the problems were always feeling unwanted by my family , i always felt like i was intruding on their new families. No one knew except until my stepmom found out and put me in an outpatient program at a near by hospital for two weeks. WASTE OF TIME. It felt staged, coached, ingenuine, and everyday we did the same thing, wrote down random coping skills. When I got out, i was a starter freshman year of high school. I soon got caught again and was sent to boarding school for the next four years. It wasnt until I lived there that I stopped. I was away from the environment, i was away from all my problems, i was away from being reminded how unwanted I felt, I loved it, and I excelled in my new environment. I want right away to a four year university and graduated in 4 years with a business degree, and am going for my masters. I dont think everyone who has a child that is cutting should send them away. I think you need to take out the negative substance in her life, if its a school switch school, if its family problems, try not to do it around her, finally the most IMPORTANT thing, is to not let the cutter think they're disappointing you by doing it, because that word is logical, not emotional, which a cutter is and will be most responsive to; that will make it a thousand times worse, the BEST way to reason with someone who is cutting is emotions, let her know you want whats best for her, not how hurt you are or how mad you are, you can say I have never loved someone so much in my life I don't like seeing you like this, etcetc. Also, always check their arms, and when she cuts and you see it, you should take something away like her phone or laptop, something she loves and cant be without, she can get it back when her arm (or legs or anywhere) clear up.
> 60 days ago

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a.m.1.2.3.
a.m.1.2.3. writes:
I was helping my friend with the same problem and I came up with an idea. First, pick any word/words you would like. Not too long, though. For example, she's using, "Stay Strong". Then on paper, index cards, etc. you will write one letter on each piece of paper. For every day she does not self harm, she will hang up a letter. If she self harms, all of the letters come down and starts again. Once all of the letters are up, lay anything she used to self harm in front of her for one minute. If she does not touch them, she is truly alot better. Maybe not fully, but alot better.
> 60 days ago

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Loner
Loner writes:
I'm sorry to here that your daughter is hurting herself you can tell just to snap herself with a rubber band when ever she feels the urge to cut it worked for me
> 60 days ago

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Mariposa777
Mariposa777 writes:
Hello,
Does anyone know if pinching is a precursor to more serious self harm?
My 10 year old pinches or smacks herself when upset.  I am looking for a
therapist now. I'm pretty upset. She is changing so fast and seems so unhappy all of a sudden. She has a "good" life. I have asked her if anything had happened at school. She just says "no". Does anyone have any thoughts on this?
Thanks in advance
> 60 days ago

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surya17
surya17 writes:
its a pshyko disorder ...to change her mind you should talk to her more and more.....and slowly ....slowly....you..get in..confidence ....get..herselvs buisy in no of games...try to watch her activity during..night...find out her classmet what they think about her....side by side try to keep secure  sharp pointed wepons /instruments away from her.....after few months defenetily you will find some change....
> 60 days ago

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KraJu
KraJu writes:
I am sorry but I don't really know what you could do. Coming up with a counselor could be good. It could be useful to really see her every day, and hear her and give her a feedback in a calm way. Always give a positive one before you give a negative one. Spend some special time with her, only the two of you...hiking, climbing, cycling, ... maybe every week or every second for maybe like two hours. Don't worry so much, it won't help you. Be a good example and take care of yourself, don't burden everything on yourself, treat yourself in a nice way.

Maybe call a counselor and ask him for a support plan in this situation.
> 60 days ago

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hbhbh
hbhbh writes:
i am 15 and i cut and have been for a while. and this is coming from my pov and i know its scary what im gonna say but hear me out. it soumds like she doesnt wanna talk. i didnt wanna talk when my mom found out and i dont wanna talk about it now. i wanna tell her i am again but im scared. but i just wouldnt talk to her about it until shes ready to come to you
> 60 days ago

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hbhbh
hbhbh writes:
i am 15 and i cut and have been for a while. and this is coming from my pov and i know its scary what im gonna say but hear me out. it soumds like she doesnt wanna talk. i didnt wanna talk when my mom found out and i dont wanna talk about it now. i wanna tell her i am again but im scared. but i just wouldnt talk to her about it until shes ready to come to you
> 60 days ago

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RosemarieTablit
RosemarieTa... writes:
she needs help , bring her to Psychiatry and evaluate them before they intervene .
> 60 days ago

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anonymousa
anonymousa writes:
Hello there. I see you've posted this a while ago, but I assume that your daughter is still going through this, because my own recovery has taking a while to kick in.
I have been in the same spot as your daughter. It's not necessarily that I was scared, I was angry and hurt. I had been sexually abused as a child, and since it was never reported, I don't sleep well on it. One of my mother's boyfriends also touched me inappropriately, and I didn't tell my mother until a year after the relationship ended. Naturally, this gave me pain, along with countless other shit I've endured.
The thing about cutting, is that whether your daughter says it or not, she might have (most likely) learned it from or heard it from her friends, as I did. It begins as little scrapes and into larger wounds. And if it escalates I'm sorry to say, she might not care if she hits a vein and dies, as that was my mindset.
"Recovery never takes a day off," as the great Lovato says. And she's correct. Just as in alcoholism, you don't come out of this labeled "Recovered and Clean". You have to have an everyday attack launched at the demon inside telling you all the worst things you've ever heard, and in order to win you have to hold on to something that isn't other people. My ledge was music.
When you've just heard that you're daughter or son or someone close to you has begun cutting, you're automatic response is their safety and health. But treating it as if it's a flu that will leave in a few months is so incredibly degrading on the child, it makes them worse. You need to be supportive of things she loves, and please please please don't act like she needs to be fixed. Act as yourself around her, not indicating any hints that you're trying to be careful what you say (my friends and I joke in ways like "I'd rather die than go out with him/her." and it's not best to speak like that to her, just don't let her know you're trying hard).
If she sees you broke up about her, she might also feel more pressure on her, and the more pressure to be perfect, the harder recovery is. Don't let her see you cry. Don't let her hear you. If you need your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend/friend to come over so you can rant, I recommend not doing it around your daughter. Make sure you're still there for her when she's crying, and try to check on her late at night (by listening if there's crying or depressive music maybe, something abnormal for her).


But if you remember one thing, let it be this:

She's still a person, and her condition does not make her any different, just as being gay does not change that actual person, it's just new information. Give her love, and give her reasons not to cut.

I hope this was informational and helpful.
> 60 days ago

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Justanotheremogirl
Justanother... writes:
You sound a lot like my mom.... That's about how me and my mom interacted when I told her I cut. (I also am 13)
> 60 days ago

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Allie4Never
Allie4Never writes:
No no no. I am a cutter myself,I am 16 and I think you could use my advice.People who cut are the most sensitive ones,and also the ones who look usually strong and fun.Do not doubt that,I have never cried in front of my parents yet I've been crying my self to sleep since I can remember my self. Your daughter feels broken,thats pretty much all. She is sensitive and you should not push her further. A simple yell to her could cause her to cut her vein. A cutter's mind is not the same with anybody else's,one would say Its simply a fight or whatever while your daughter,me and all the cutters would burst into tears just after the door closes,grab a razor and do what we need to do. It is something extremely hard to quit,and finally I want to get to the point for which I registered just to comment,when I saw that "expert" saying <<if you know what is she using to cut take it away>>.
NEVER take away her razors,NEVER.If you are a smoker and you have some cigarettes in your pocket you will be okay,and maybe not smoke immediately. If you know that you are out of cigs and there is no way you can smoke it will drive you insane and the urge will be tremendous in a few minutes. When i couldn't find my razors I broke a glass in a towel and used the glass pieces,she is not 5 years old,If she wants to cut she will. And never take away her razors. She could use something dirty or infected,you never know. Good luck,I hope she gets better soon,but cope with her and don't put pressure on her,If she wants to create let her create without limits.
> 60 days ago

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driggs63
driggs63 writes:
My 14-year-old daughter has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and I just found out a few hours ago that she was/is cutting.  I was cleaning her room as she's at her dad's this weekend, and I don't usually delve too deeply into her room.  But I wanted to make it lok nice.  I found a pile of bloody cotton balls and a dirty razor from a pencil sharpener.  Then while picking up and putting away her things, yes, I read some of what she had written in a journal, and it said "I'm cutting now", and it was written months ago.

At first, I was a little numb, then angrier and angrier.  I'm glad she's at her dad's so I have time to get information and figure out what I'm going to say to her, or if I'm even going to confront her.  

She has always been extremely bright, in advanced classes always.  Glowing reports from teachers, ahead of every one, a leader, into drama, singing, etc.  But now, she's so down on herself, I don't get it.  I know  now it IS depression, and it makes me very very sad that she has to go through life with this burden of self-loathing and insecurity.  I know she didn't get those feelings from me, and nothing like abuse has happened to her.

We have seen counselors, and psychologists, and now we're going back to the psychiatrist on Tuesday to maybe get her on some meds so that she can lead a life without this opressive hopelessness.  But of course, I have doubts and MUCH fear about what anti-depressant side effects will do to her.  AND, on top of it all, her dad says no way on the meds, but I'm the one dealing with all of this, he has stayed completely uninvolved.

I'm so glad there are others out there I can get advice from.
> 60 days ago

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sambra
sambra writes:
Hi All! I am in exactly the same boat with my 13 yr old. She says she's ok, does not seem unhappy and our relationship/ communication is suprisingly good.
I have read much on this subject, understand a lot, tried eveything...
BUT HOW DO I GET HER TO STOP????????
> 60 days ago

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Hana_bird
Hana_bird writes:
Okay. I think I know how your daughter feels. I am myself a pupil and a cutter, so I can relate to her. What is important that you have to understand is: self harm is a silent scream. Basically it is relief from depression, where the physical pain blocks out the mental pain the teen is experiencing. However bad it might sound, counselling rarely helps. Your daughter has a fear that people will judge her and not understand her when she tells them why shes cutting herself. To be honest, sadness is like a blanket to self harmers, they are as comfortable as it can get during depression when noone else knows why theyre like that. For me I find it that the best thing to do is talk to people your age about it. This usually avoids misunderstanding. The first time i was self harming my guy best friend sat me down and talked to me about it, at the age of 13. He said that seeing my scars males him upset and anxious and he will be there for me if I need it. Its important that your daughter has a loyal friend that can understand her. she needs to talk to someone but not a counsellor. Once she talks to her friends then maybe she will talk to you. I think thats the best way.
> 60 days ago

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HighSchoolTeach
HighSchoolT... writes:
Hi! I read your post and I am heartbroken for what you are going through. I went through something similar with a student and I just didn't know the right way to respond when she expressed herself to me. I came across this article and it really helped me to understand her and respond to her in a helpful way.

http://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/g201308/teenager-self-injures/#?insight[search_id]=6b2675b3-1a2d-4d41-962c-749f132b947e&insight[search_result_index]=1

I hope it helps!
> 60 days ago

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selfharmersunite
selfharmers... writes:
if you are still looking to help i have an online support group and its helped people but i have helped people that cut 2 or 3 times a day actually stop so if you want i can help i know it seems odd since you don't know me but i can have the people of the group give you any info about me you want so you know I'm not some random stranger
> 60 days ago

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annbrown34
annbrown34 writes:
She is 13. You can not hide all of the sharp objects in the world from her. therefore you will need to do what you can to help her at the root of the problem if you want her to stop cutting herself.
Cutting is often because the child has been hurt so badly at one time or on a regular basis that she has become numb to pain. The numbness to all pain is a survival mechanism to help them cope with the thing that happened or is happening, but it in it's self can be unbearable, so they cut themselves to feel pain, to feel like this life is still real, to remind them something is real. Usually pain at this level is caused by sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is the most difficult thing to process for the brain. It causes ambivalence in the victim and that its self can be an atomic bomb for the brain. It also causes shame in the victim. 80 percent of people abused before the age of 18 are abused by an older family member. This causes a while bunch of difficulties for the victim. getting help could mean mom and dad will get a divorce if it is dad, etc. you get the idea. Now when you think, no not my child. remember, the Seattle school of psychology showed statistics that said 1/3 of girls are abused before the age of 18. Now look around at all the girls you know. one out of every three of them were sexually abused before they turned 18 or will be before they turn 18. Sexual abuse is the most under reported type of abuse due to the shame it causes in the victim, it makes them feel dirty. Now remember abusers know the signs of a victim, because they see it in their other victims, so they will abuse people already showing signs. The reason they do this is to assure their secret will be kept. If a person has already been abused and they are keeping quiet, odds are they will not tell on the new abuser. Many times people get into positions of power to protect themselves. So often sexual abusers are therapists, teachers, preachers, counselors, police, etc. so considering all of this, also remember that often times the victims can't remember the abuse because it is so difficult to think about they block it from their minds... many times they only remember when they are adults and in a safe living situation to where they can now handle the memories. My solution seek out a therapist who has been trained by the Seattle school of psychology. They train their therapists in a way that is actually productive. I have seen it personally after many failed attempts by other therapists. God Bless, and take heart, there is help for her.
32 days ago

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