to ask if anyone has experience with a teen DD cutting and what should I do?(41 Posts)
Well, just that, really. Backstory: back in December there was a huge blowup in her friend group. A couple ex-friends spread nasty rumours about her to the point that I pulled her from the school and am home educating her. Before I pulled her from school, she had begun cutting. Shortly after, she had a mental health crisis, was hospitalised for two weeks and diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder NOS. She hadn't cut for quite some time after getting out of hospital New Years' Eve but now has begun again even though we'd removed or locked away all blades in the house - she's bought more or got a razor from a friend or something! She came to me Friday and showed it to me and we talked calmly about it but inside I was losing my mind. All the information I can find is counterintuitive to me - it says be understanding, don't watch the child all the time, just ask if they want to talk about it etc. etc. when my instinct is to a) not let her out of the house until she gives over the razor she's used (she won't) and b) if she continues accessing razors etc when out with friends, not let her go out with friends. It seems like just letting her go on about it is allowing her to harm herself and as her mother that seems like the wrong step to take. For what it's worth, she has a therapist and discusses this cutting with him, but he is not allowed to tell me what goes on in their sessions unless she consents, and she won't (she's sixteen).
Has anyone else had a teen do this? How did you get through it?
How serious are the cuts? If they aren't big/deep enough to be dangerous/get infected, I would provide lots of support but don't keep her stuck in the house as that won't help. She may well be relying on her friends for support, so keeping her away from them is counterproductive, and if she can't get access to razors she may well look for other things to hurt herself with that won't be as hygenic. Make sure she has access to things like woundwipes/TCP/germolene and plasters, and make sure she knows how to keep the wounds clean until they heal. Best wishes to you both
One of my friends daughter uses a marker pen as opposed to a razor ?
A year down the line and I've come to realise that you need to understand that cutting is a form of release from whatever stress/pressure they're feeling. You take that away and the pressure is a whole lot worse. It's very hard. My dc wanted to stop and has done for long periods but was more and more depressed. She has counselling which absolutely be a safe place to talk without fear of being reported to Mum and Dad, but we've asked if we could occasionally join the session for an update with dd and this has been agreed but on dd's terms. Cbt didn't help my dd and she now has a therapist who is addressing the issues not just dealing with thoughts and distractions, I wish I'd done this sooner.
Fwiw I think there should be more support for parents.
Don't keep her stuck in the house, you will just isolate her and it will seem like a punishment... You can't stop her hurting herself, if by some reason you get her to give you the razor and never let her out of your sight again she will just find something else sharp.
Be validating is the best advice I can give you- don't try to fix or change this, validate how she feels, encourage her to talk to her therapist, ask her what you can do to help her.
Thank you. The cuts, they're not so deep. I'd say just barely enough to actually bleed - the batch she showed me was pretty 'fresh' and it was just really red lines with the occasional little blob of blood. It's just hard to know first of all that something is upsetting her enough that she's doing this and she won't talk to me about it and secondly that I can't DO anything about it - if it was another person hurting my child I could force them to stop but it's her, and short of keeping her in the same room with me at all times (which is silly) I can't. I'm just at my wits end, I think - haven't slept all night (we're in the US) for worrying.
My dd's friend did. She was recommended to have an elastic band around her wrist and ping it. Now, to be honest, hers wasn't serious, it was over a short period of time and there was no underlying mental illness - but it did help for the length of time needed.
Nice booklet on the mind website.
Honestly, having been that kid, as counter-intuitive as the advice sounds it really is best unless the cuts are deep enough to require medical attention. My DM took away everything she could find, I ended up using a kitchen knife, it being too deep because I wasn't used to the knife and ending up in hospital. With a razor blade the likelihood of a cut requiring treatment is minimal unless she is intending to cause serious harm rather than using it as a release.
I found tight elastic bands around my wrists that I could flick back hard helped me stop. And slowly getting over what caused me to need that release in the first place.
How awful for you. Didn't want to read and run.
All I can tell you is that self-harm is a physical manifestation of emotional pain. And you can use anything to make a cut....even a small stone from the garden path. You can't police every object on earth. You can only help with the underlying problem.
Thinking of you....
I just think it's a positive step you care as well, when my mum found out when I was 15, she hit the roof, was so angry, then ignored it for the next 10 years.
Try and find the balance between backing off and being supportive when she wants you. Be there to listen, don't judge, dont push her to talk, but don't ignore either.
Google "self soothing"
Don't keep her in.
It is a release.
The only thing you can do is to try to find another release. The elastic band might work for some people but not for others. The curting releases endorphobs which can go some way to rebalancing her emotions.
I find exercise helps. Lots of it the more vigorous the better. But that isn't for everyone.
Is she on any medication for BPD? Talking therapy alone won't usually work as it isn't actually a psychological problem.
I would say the main thing she needs is things she can do to cope when it becomes unbearable. For some people that is medication but it isn't for everyone.
Endorphins. Ffs. I can spell just cannot type.
Not sure this is helpful, but as a teen I used to cut. I was very secretive about it, and had no relationship with my mother. Still don't.
I agree with the pp, it's a form of release. Like a pressure cooker letting off steam. Very distressing for you as a parent none the less. I wasn't proud of it, and mostly hid the marks.
However by showing you, it feels almost as if she's saying this is how much I hurt inside, look.
I have no suggestions how to tackle though, because my needs as a teen were probably different to your daughters. I was desperate for affection, and to be listened to. Escaping my home environment was the catalyst to stop, and no matter how things have been since, I never have again- it doesn't achieve anything. I know my ramblings don't help!
You have my sympathy, op
Sometimes headphone with loud music can help - it sort of drowns out the bad thoughts. If the cuts are small, that's good news, so just remind her to use clean razors and to take care of the cuts afterwards. Encourage her to keep talking to people (you, her friends, the therapist, etc), and maybe she could try a journal, as that also helps get the upsetting thoughts out of your head and in a way get rid of them. Tell her she won't always feel this way, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. Take care of yourself too, as this must be really hard for you too
Oh, and also don't make her talk if she doesn't want to. It's ok to feel sad/angry/upset etc and NOT try to work it all out with talking, and being told talking makes it all better is maddening when you know that some things actually don't get better no matter how much you talk them over. In other words, do what you're doing and be there for her, but if she doesn't want to talk about it, that's ok. Talk about other things instead - the movies, music, food, normal life stuff
She is on medications - an anti-depressant, a mood stabliliser and Lithium as well. They've been working well for her (I thought!) and we were really encouraged.
I am...well, I'm holding myself together, I suppose. I have complex PTSD and some associated disorders from severe childhood abuse, which just reared its head when DD had her crisis and had to be hospitalised - the only reason I didn't accept my treating psychologist's offer of hospitalisation to stabilise is so I could be around for DD as she was so newly OUT of hospital. I'm in therapy and have medications, and I'm keeping together so I can help her keep hold of herself but sometimes I do feel a bit wrung out. And her having to cut makes me feel a failure because it means that she feels like she has to do this instead of talk to me about the problem. She's always talked to me about everything before and I've never been judgmental or angry; why now does she decide not to talk and to cut instead?
It could be I'm just tired; I haven't slept since about this time yesterday morning and I suspect I look like I've been dragged through a hedge backwards.
My DD is similar age. Her SH took the form of burning herself. Last summer she took a paracetamol overdose. This triggered emergency referral to CAMHS.
On the whole DD found the counselling a bit too generic. What has properly helped is ADs and medication to help her sleep.
Don't dismiss the SH because it isn't very injuring. My DD went from light cutting to serious burns then an overdose.
With DDs agreement we have hidden the paracetamol. If she needs them for a headache then she is given 2 at a time.
We've had to do the same, Gnome. DD's crisis took the form of a Tylenol overdose so now all medications are in a locked box and doled out by me or DH at the appropriate times or if needed for headache, cramps, etc. Huzzah, yet another thing to have to manage!
Oh you poor thing, you really have got it all going on at once. First and foremost - don't feel a failure, you're not!! She turns to cutting because it's a totally different feeling/need/response than talking. It's like chalk and cheese. She's got medication, she has a mum who loves her, and she has a therapist - she has everything going for her.
I don't want to minimise the cutting as it can lead to more serious things, but equally, sometimes it doesn't. Try not to make a big deal of it, just talk when she want to talk, and also do some things together where talking isn't required or even on the cards - eg have movie nights together, or spa days, etc. Just being there is all you really need to do
I had the bombshell 2 years ago, when she started sixth form. I heard the news from a teacher, with my daughter present, (she knew she was going to tell me) at parents evening. To say I was shocked is an understatement I had absolutely no idea. However anti depressants seemed to work , but a woman from CAMHS accused me of not taking it seriously, and was all for taking my 17 year old daughter into care!!! I said that the girl she was talking about sounded nothing like my daughter, and I found it hard to believe things she was telling me as it was all news to me! And I was still in shock myself from the news. However, this seemed to shock my daughter so much, she saw how upset we were, that she kind of took control of herself.(She absolutely would not talk to me about what she was doing and why,though, despite my attempts.) Eventually,after a couple of months, The CAMHS people were satisfied that she wasn't a danger to herself any more and discharged her and ,apart from one tiny lapse, she seems to be okay now, and enjoying life at University. But the whole episode put the fear of God into me.
On a purely practical note, is it possible to switch to using ibuprofen rather than tylenol for pain? That way there is one less thing around to worry about. You can overdose on ibuprofen, but it's not as lethal as tylenol
I've worked with children and young people who self-harm for many years. While I completely understand that a parents gut instinct is to remove all sharps and watch the child 24/7, this can actually be more dangerous. If cutting is your daughters way of coping with being in the world, then taking that coping strategy away from her will be detrimental to her mood and mental state. She needs to find more positive, healthy coping strategies to enable her to reduce her reliance on self harm but this takes time. The National Self Harm Network have some useful information about distraction/displacement techniques on their website. Another thing to keep in mind is that adolescents can be extremely creative and resourceful when it comes to self harm, you can remove everything you deem to be unsafe but if they are determined to injure themselves they will find a way. The danger is that if you remove an opportunity for the child to cut they may well resort to more dangerous methods such as overdosing or tying ligatures. Your daughters current method of self harm, while understandably upsetting for you, is not putting her in any danger. Removing opportunities to go out and socialise with friends won't stop her self harming but it will almost certainly have a negative impact on her mood and on the quality of your relationship. The fact that your daughter felt able to approach you and tell you about her self harm speaks volumes about your relationship and is a huge protective factor- you risk losing that by threatening to lock her in the house or ban her from seeing friends.
Thank you, all . DH has just woken and is chasing me off to bed to try to sleep - I'm not randomly disappearing. I really appreciate all of your advice, especially from people who have cut before; I SHed as a teen but it took a completely different form and my DM was obviously not a bit supportive so I'm starting from zero. I'll be back in a bit after I've either slept or at least had a lie-down for a while.
Have a good rest - it's just as important to take care of yourself!
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