This is a list of the questions and suggestions from our Principal Clinical Psychologist. If you would like to submit an Anxiety related question please visit our Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/GroupworxPsychology. Simply submit your question to the Facebook Message Inbox and your question will be anonymously posted on our page for other parents to post their advice and comments. Advice from Principal Clinical Psychologist, Stefanie Schwartz will also be provided to EVERY question asked within 24 hours. Her advice will be posted on this page.
My teenage daughter (15) has started cutting her arms again. I noticed she was spending way too long in the bathroom and I don't know how to approach her. Last night she was cracking up and went and hid and I said to show me her arms and like most cutters you get every excuse under the sun as to how old the cuts are, I know they are new, and the other newer ones look so generic like lines equally spaced up the arm as if she's copied people,because that's how people's look in 80% of cutters photos . I don't see cutting as original I see it as attention seeking, but I need help to understand it from a different position. Any advise would be good. She says when I find out and talk about it I make it worse, and between cutting times she's so rational about how stupid it is. (This question was asked of Stefanie and answered by her on the new goaskmum website)
Cutting and other types of deliberate self harm are usually signs of mental health difficulties including depression and/or anxiety. In general, in all the clients I have seen (particularly adolescent girls), self harm is not ‘attention-seeking’ as you may be thinking about it i.e. your daughter is not harming herself to ‘be like her friends’ or to ‘get noticed more at home’. In fact, most adolescents who self-harm are quite self conscious of the scars and as you mentioned go to extreme measures to hide them. Self-harm often occurs because these adolescents have difficulty managing intense emotions and use cutting as a coping mechanism. It is often described that the physical pain is a distraction from the emotional pain. It is likely that your daughter needs assistance with understanding and dealing with her emotions. You can support her in this. But it is also important for her to be able to access professional assistance in this regard. Speaking with your GP about potential options is your best first option, and they can recommend a number of mental health professionals who can assist you and your daughter.
For immediate assistance, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or talk to your local GP, health professional or someone you trust.
Good Luck - self harm is difficult to address, but it is a huge positive that you have noticed this in your daughter early and hopefully can address it before it moves into other worrying behaviour and difficulties.