DD has been cutting - how do we help her?

(44 Posts)
WorriedTeenMum Fri 01-Feb-13 00:00:40

DD(13) came to me this evening and showed me that she has been cutting her legs. Many, many cuts. None of them looked particularly deep but there was just so many of them. DD said it had started this week.

It seems like she has been having problems with a friend who has been bullying her physically and emotionally.

I hugged her and told her that I loved her. We talked then she went and had a bath.

This is new to me. Have I done the right thing? What else should I be doing?

Does anyone have any experience of this please?

WorriedTeenMum Fri 01-Feb-13 07:11:54

I talked to older DD about younger DD hurting herself (older DD sworn to secrecy). It seems to be more common that I realised.

I think that DD is embarrassed by the cuts (I have signed her off PE for today) but I think that there is also embarrassment about the way her friend is treating her.

God this is difficult.

Beckamaw Fri 01-Feb-13 07:18:49

She has talked to you, which is really good. You have listened, without judging or berating. I think many people underestimate what that means to a confused teen.

Usually, this sort of behaviour goes undetected for a while. By the time it is tackled, it is a deep rooted habit. sad
Keep talking. Offer hugs, tea and sympathy. Make sure she feels totally safe in her home environment, and ask her to come to you each time she has an urge to self harm.

Is this ongoing bullying? Does the school have a clear policy?

happystory Fri 01-Feb-13 07:20:18

having had this with 16 year old dd, i know how worried you feel. it is remarkably common, although i didn't know that either. i think its brilliant that she has told you and will talk to you about her school problems. will you speak to the school about the bully problem?

WorriedTeenMum Fri 01-Feb-13 07:54:20

Thank you for replying.

We are talking about the bullying. The bullying friend is part of a wider circle of friends. God knows the bullying friends has problems of her own but she should not be making these DD's problem.

I think that what has happened is that there has been a crisis in bullying friend's life and she is taking it out on DD. DD is then torn between being hurt and wanting to stay a good friend. She has taken out the confusion and hurt on her self.

The school does have a strict anti-bullying policy which DD knows about.

MrsFriskers Fri 01-Feb-13 08:17:38

Speak privately to the school to let them know about both the self harm and the bullying. They may have a school counsellor service for your girl. Without wishing to alarm you, this can become entrenched and you should go to GP and ask for a CAMHS referral if this becomes so. They were very helpful with my youngest, but it has taken a long time for her to find alternative coping methods.

morebyluckthanjudgement Fri 01-Feb-13 16:52:12

I've just had a call from my DD's school (16 year 11) to say that today she told them that last year she cut herself because she felt so bad. I'm reeling - she's such a level headed mature girl and has always been quite scathing of kids who self harm (she has 2 cousins who have had terrible mental health problems). She's told school that she hasn't done it since and only tried it once but the child protection officer had to call me. Now I don't know what to do - do I speak to her about it or do I just wait and see. She usually tells me everything and I think the only reason she hasn't told me this is because she's worried I'll be upset because of what my brother has been through with his girls I'm desperate to speak to her but I don't want to make it worse. What do I do?

WorriedTeenMum Fri 01-Feb-13 21:11:27

My feel (on the basis of 1 day's experience!) is that you know and that you cant pretend you dont know. Could you clear some space and time and tell her that the CP officer has contacted you and then go from there? If she doesnt want to talk yet then she knows that you know and that the door is open to talk at another time.

What do I know though?

WorriedTeenMum Sat 02-Feb-13 13:27:32

On DD1's advice we are going to update DD2's bedroom with DD2's full input and assistance in both layout and decor. I am hoping that this will give DD a distraction and also give her good reason to not accept visits from the bully/friend (not that we will let her in again!).

seriousone Sat 02-Feb-13 13:47:26

im afraid to say im a self-harmer and im an adult and its not something im proud off its just for me a way of coping withy different things(though not the right way i know)but as an adult its harder to hide amongst work colleagues as there is no understanding, i have had ppl talk behind my back about it which makes it worse. No help im afraid but all i can suggest is be there for your daughters and listen to them as that what i need the most , x

I'm going through this too. 15yo DD has cut her arms and legs and carved 'ugly' into her arm. She hid it from me for a few months to protect me. Things are better now it is out in the open and she is doing it less often. She is seeing CAMHS and a counsellor at school too. At home she often seems chirpy, but she hates her looks and we are working on things we can do eg eyebrow tidy, new clothes, a little make up, swapping glasses for contacts. One of her biggest concerns is her dad (my exH) who emotionally abuses her. She is refusing to see him at the moment and is scared be alone with her. She knows I love her and I'm there for her, I don't judge and I don't tell her not to self harm but try to come up with alternatives eg have a long bath with a book, play on the xbox or something to distract herself. It's tough.

WorriedTeenMum Sat 02-Feb-13 21:26:49

I am now worrying every time she is in her bedroom for any length of time. She seems happier and I am hoping that this was just a blip.

Do you know what she cut herself with? DD used a blade from her pencil sharpener, and when I took some pyjamas from her drawer I found a compass under them. You need to decide whether to search the room or ask her to hand things over, or just worry. If someone is determined to self harm, they will find a way.

WorriedTeenMum Sat 02-Feb-13 21:50:19

She was using scissors which she brought down to me. The thing is I dont know if that is it. Tomorrow I am going to ask her if I can see the cuts and check that they are healing. I talked to her today about helping the cuts to heal so that they dont scar.

DD willingly shows me her cuts/scars, I got her some Bio Oil and even rub it on for her sometimes. We talked about our summer holiday and how she will want to wear shorts etc and not feel inhibited, and made it clear that there is no question of her going in the pool or sea with open wounds. Hers aren't deep, and look so much better already than they did two weeks ago. Please ask your GP for a CAMHS referral...even if DD is talking to you now, it is best that she also gets professional help. We're hoping for CBT so DD has different coping strategies when she is struggling.

WorriedTeenMum Sun 03-Feb-13 14:29:46

She showed me the cuts, there were no new ones and the ones she has seem to be healing up. We put germolene on them. She said that they were a little sore so hopefully that will help. I felt this was a step forward on a few days ago when she was saying they didnt hurt and she was wanting to cover them up as quickly as possible. Today seemed to be more matter of fact, we were looking after them just as we would any other injury.

That sounds like progress smile

WorriedTeenMum Sun 03-Feb-13 19:09:20

Thank you, I hope so

TinkBelle Wed 06-Feb-13 09:31:14

As mum to a dd who self harms to a higher degree, I would say you are doing all the right things at this moment in time. She is communicating with you, she has told you very early on so she wants you to know, you have responded calmly and positively and are supporting her - well done. If it escalates at all, be ready to seek professional help ASAP, do not shy away from that, daunting though it can sound to take steps to involve professionals. Good luck, I truly hope it is a blip and that your support and interventions will be enough to help her through.

mindfulmum Sat 09-Feb-13 02:37:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MerryCouthyMows Sat 09-Feb-13 03:50:37

Where are the posts?

Hen2905 Thu 14-Feb-13 14:55:16

I have a 16yr old that started to cut herself last year. I'm afraid I buried my head in the sand & because nothing else was mentioned left it. She has a very up & down relationship with her Father, my ex. & a very bad relationship with new Stepmum. She stopped seeing her father 5 mths ago & has recently told me, under the influence of a couple of drinks, that she has started to do it again & even contemplated ending things. I was shocked, devastated & at a complete loss what to do. I contacted her Dad who was next to useless, then the next morning she refused to talk about it and now the walls are back down. She won't talk to the dr, she won't talk to anyone at school. I've let the school know whats going on, I've tried to get her to see someone & I've spoken to her closest friend so we can try to help her. I know I should be grateful that she opened up to me at all but I feel like I'm failing her. I can't drag her to get help but I'm so scared that if she gets low again she might do something.

mindfulmum Thu 14-Feb-13 16:35:43

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HeyHoHereWeGo Thu 14-Feb-13 16:44:43

I'm really suprised that you wouldn't think of going to the GP and seeking referral to CAMHS.
I see that thst is not the initial reaction for a lot of you, but I am genuinely suprised by that.
Self harm is like a see-saw: one side is the stuff the young person is trying to cope with; the other side is all the tools they have to cope.
Self harm comes about when the STUFF overwhelms their TOOLS
If they have great coping mechanisms, great support, close healthy relationships, friends, interests, take regular exercise etc, it tends to be a specific thing or event that overwhelms them - an incident of severe bullying, assault, hidden eating disorder etc
If they have poor relationships, dispruted family attachments, inappropriate boundaries, too much frredom etc, it can be less of a distinct "thing" that makes them harm, it can be something seemingly trivial, a mood, a distraction.
either way, I think contact with GP is a great starting point and ideally, every child who self harms would get to bring their family for family therapy, as it is rarely NOT helpful.

cory Fri 15-Feb-13 09:04:35

I was straight on the phone for a referral when dd revealed that she was cutting herself. Long waiting lists, but when I spoke to the school counsellor, she went straight to the phone and got us a referral.

Can't help thinking you left something out of your list, though, HeyHo:

"If they have great coping mechanisms, great support, close healthy relationships, friends, interests, take regular exercise etc, it tends to be a specific thing or event that overwhelms them - an incident of severe bullying, assault, hidden eating disorder etc
If they have poor relationships, dispruted family attachments, inappropriate boundaries, too much frredom etc, it can be less of a distinct "thing" that makes them harm, it can be something seemingly trivial, a mood, a distraction."

Dd has good relationships, strong family attachments and, I think, appropriate boundaries, but a strong predisposition to anxiety which is a known factor in her particular genetic disorder.

Sometimes it will take the form of self harming (or suicide attempts), sometimes of vomiting, or hyperventilating, or severe back ache. It's not just one thing, or one event; it's about how her body handles stress and that was apparent when she was very small.

CAHMS have told her quite frankly that this predisposition is something she will have to factor in when she works on coping mechanisms, because like her physical disability that will probably always be part of her.

Magdalena45 Sat 16-Feb-13 19:46:42

I work with young people and self harm is quite common. They often don't want to tell people because they feel ashamed or because they use it as a coping strategy and worry someone will make them stop (without helping find other coping strategies). A lot of kids also fear adults will think it means they are going to harm themselves further.
You did a great job supporting your daughter. It usually helps if they can talk openly about it, about what lead up to it, how they felt, etc. It must be really upsetting to find out, but it doesn't necessarily mean things are as bad as we might assume!

Magdalena45 Sat 16-Feb-13 19:52:38

Although of course it needs to be taken seriously!

WorriedTeenMum Sat 16-Feb-13 20:56:44

We have chatted several times. She is a very private person since puberty hit so coming to me with something like this took her right out of her comfort zone. She let me see the area she was cutting and it looks to be healing up very well. There was no evidence of fresh cuts which was good. DD had vouchers for a teen spa at Christmas (her request) so she has an impetus to not go back to this.

She has had no contact over the half term with the friend/bully which I think is helpful. The distance helps DD to be less involved with the problems in the friend/bully's life.

DD seems a lot happier. A number of things got on top of her all at once. In many ways she is very sensible and mature but all the problems at once was more than she could handle.

Older DD has been very helpful and has helped me to understand this better.

HeyHoHereWeGo Sun 17-Feb-13 13:01:14

Thats great she seems happier. It sounds like she was just overwhelmed but is feeling better? Have school been any help with the bullying - if its a school based thing?Did you do the doing up her room thing? Was that a good distraction?

HeyHoHereWeGo Sun 17-Feb-13 13:04:02

Oh Cory - thats a good point about Anxiety being a big factor. And dont you think that trend/ peer group/ copy cat element can be relevant for some young people, but its hard to phrase in such a way that doesn't sound dismissive, like you are only doing that because your friends all do it. Do you remember when "Emo" became a thing, and parents were afraid of it as they thought it was young people sitting round listening to miserable music cutting themselves.

cory Sun 17-Feb-13 13:56:24

I think it depends entirely on the situation, HeyHo.

Some young people do it as a copy cat thing- though tbh I'd be surprised if many happy well adjusted people do it merely to be fashionable- others find it out on their own.

When I fantasised about cutting my wrists in my teens, as a response to an unbearably stressful situation, I had no idea that this was something other people did. I remember watching a French film one day and being absolutely amazed that the director knew about it: how could he possibly have got into my head and seen what I kept hidden there?

A little later on, the accepted wisdom was that self harming was all about low self worth- which may well be the case for some young people, but not for others.

In dd's case, her panic response goes way back before she knew about self harming as a group thing; when she was younger she would vomit or bang her head or hyperventilate.

WorriedTeenMum Sun 17-Feb-13 15:18:28

Thank you HeyHo, the bedroom is now in progress. We didnt involve the school re the bullying so far. DD is back at school next week and is using some of the techniques older DD gave her to handle this person - being on the other end of a line of friends, avoiding being caught alone with this person.

It is very difficult at secondary school. DD is in year 8. She doesnt want to create a problem which she will then have to live with until the end of year 11. This makes it so much harder for teenagers. They are in a community which they cant leave.

If the bullying starts again then we will most certainly get in contact with the school.

HeyHoHereWeGo Sun 17-Feb-13 22:28:17

Is she being bullied on-line as well do you think? Could your elder daughter ask her about that?

WorriedTeenMum Sun 17-Feb-13 22:44:53

I have asked about that and dont think so. DD only got a Facebook account recently but doesnt seem to be really that into it. There doesnt seem to be any problem with it. Older DD has given younger DD advice about Facebook generally which has been taken on board.

HeyHoHereWeGo Mon 18-Feb-13 11:38:05

Thats good. Imagine a world without bullying, wouldn't that be something! All the best for your daughter.

WorriedTeenMum Mon 18-Feb-13 20:04:05

Many thanks HeyHo. We have been 'lucky' that we have older DD around who has experienced friends going through this. Of course not lucky for the people who actually go through this themselves.

74claire Wed 20-Feb-13 17:24:24

I haven't been online for a long time and looked in to raise the same query. I discovered that my recently fifteen year old daughter has been cutting, because I saw it.

Turns out she has been having counselling at school and nobody has told me about that. I feel marginalised and powerless.

flossfour Wed 20-Feb-13 17:41:20

I had this nightmare a few years back with my DD. I spent years taking all sorts of abuse from her and this was just one of the 'phases' she seemed to go through.

Counselling helped. Not patronizing her or making false promises - being truthful, even if it wasn't what she wanted to hear, and not being judgmental (which you already sound like you are doing) all also played a part.

The thing that absolutely stopped her in her tracks though, was the fact that I knew a woman who had done this in her teen years to such an extent, DD had always assumed she had been in a car crash. Once I explained how the scars got there, she stopped immediately, not wanting to end up like that.

What I can tell you is that there were times I honestly felt I could not go on with her behaviour as it was but I persevered and today? I have the most beautiful, loving and hardworking DD and we have an extremely close relationship.

I wish you both the best of luck.

HeyHoHereWeGo Thu 21-Feb-13 20:02:23

Oh my gosh claire, thats so shocking to me! That you, a key player, THE key player, to be excluded. Have you saught a meeting with your school? Though I think that is within guidelines for schools in England it just sounds so wrong. Have you started your own thread? The very best of luck.

girliefriend Thu 21-Feb-13 20:16:41

I went through a phase when I was a teenager where when I got stressed I would pinch myself a lot, at times my arms would be covered in bruises sad

I did this because of anxiety, it gave me a release of sorts and helped momentarily focus my mind. I had some counselling and supportive family and eventually got my head together.

However even now when I find myself in a situation where I feel anxious I get the urge to pinch myself.

74claire Sat 23-Feb-13 13:27:42

I just got back online, thanks. I have started a thread, but no replies. Glad it isn't a popularity contest.

cory Sat 23-Feb-13 15:15:30

I can understand how upset and hurt you must be over your dd, 74claire.

But I don't quite agree with HeyHo's description of you as the key player either.

My dd has been having counselling over a long period now and I have come to realise that seeing myself as a key player doesn't really help her healing. Unless she can engage directly with the professionals, without me stepping in to negotiate, no good will come of it. That may mean just me sitting quietly in a corner, or more often not being present at all; it may or may not mean she tells me what the meeting has been all about.

To be fair to the school, they have no idea if you are the cause of the problem, the solution to the problem, nothing to do with the problem or a minor factor in exacerbating the problem. But they have to offer support to your dd in any of those cases.

And if your dd is not prepared to tell you about her problems, then it is vital that she still gets support.

After all, unless she can learn to take responsibility for her problems, she won't be very safe despite your best efforts.

funnymummy9 Mon 25-Feb-13 17:57:43

Gosh, you're lucky she came to you so early.

I self-harm (I'm 16 yo, this isn't my account) I haven't told my mum, my dad found out after he read some text messages between me and a friend, and he freaked out and told me that I was disgusting and how he couldn't bare to look at me. So, I told him I'd stopped but I haven't.

I wished my Dad had hugged me and told me how much he loved me, which would have helped more but instead he overreacted. And we've never spoken about it again. Try suggesting to her to speak to a teacher or counsellor at her school, these people are trained on dealing with these things and it'll help her feel better. And just ask her occasionally how she's feeling. Let her know you're keeping a closer eye on her from now on. Don't come right out with it though, make it subtle instead of just going 'HEY! I'm gonna be keeping an extra close eye on you now'

My mum and dad divorced and my mum doesn't know. It all happened because life at home became completely unbearable but it's getting better now :-).

But your daughter starting cutting doesn't have to be a disaster, she can stop before it's too late.

Hope I helped x

WorriedTeenMum Fri 08-Mar-13 07:13:57

I wanted to come back on this.

First of all thank you to everyone who posted. Reading the messages of experience and support really did help.

DD is a lot more settled. Significantly I have noticed that she is wearing a dressing gown now so that her legs are visible (she was cutting her legs). I think that this indicates that she is healing.

This weekend we are going to book a spa day for her (part of her Christmas present).

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