Posted by: Annie | 2004/10/15

Self Inflicting Pain

Dear Doc, My daughter is 14 and in grade 8. Since going to high school there has been tremendous changes. She has always been a bit of a demanding and slighly moody individual but lately there is some strange behaviour. Without my permission at the beginning of the year she pearced a belly ring. OK, I gave her the speech and left it at that, She breaks her things in order to get new once e.g. her cell phone, she is lately telling all kinds of lies. I cought her out 5 days after piercing her tong. She did it herself with an ear stud, but didnt pierce the tong itself but the little piece of flesh under the tong. She took the stud out and promised never to do it again. Yesterday she lost her belly ring and simply replaced it with a piece of steel. The spot is not slighly inflamed. And to add to that I noticed she was acting strangely and I asked her to open her mouth to which she at first refused, Just to find that same piece of steel under the tong. When I woke her this morning she seemed very slow and having difficulty in responding. She could barely lift her arms and I asked her what's wrong, to which she replied, nothing, I switched on her light and found a burn mark just above her Pulse about 7 cm long. She couldnt remember how it happened or when, and then just simply said, burnt with the kettle or something cant remember when. That was definately not a hot water burn mark as it was a long line about 3mm thick. She has been acting agresive and is totally disrespectful. She is also extremely untidy on herself. She's always been a tough cookie and I respected the fact that she has a mind of her own. Is this normal behaviour for teens these days? What do you suggest I do?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageTeen expert

Dear Annie

There are aspects to your daughters behaviour that are normal for a teenager, but overall her presentation is concerning for such a young teenager. Many young people are having piercings, (or are arguing with parents who wont allow them to), but to actually do this herself is not typical behaviour.

Some of the moodiness and confrontational behaviour is also typical of the early teen years, but it can also be linked to drug use. Being moody and overly tired can be indicative of cannabis use. The self-harm in the form of the burn is also something that indicates emotional disturbance in your daughter. During adolescence as people become increasingly self aware they think about death, suicide and behaviours such as self-harm. However, acting on this is not typical.

I strongly recommend that you take your daughter to see you family doctor. I also think it wise to have a drug test conducted to at least eliminate this as a problem. The only way you will truly know if drugs have been used is to have a test. In conversation with your doctor I would also discuss a referral to a psychologist who specialises in adolescent mental health for an assessment.

Someone responded to your question by mentioning the movie Thirteen. Whilst young people can be influenced by what they watch, acting out extreme behaviours such as burning and self-piercing goes beyond this.

As a mother, you know your daughter very well, and I recommend you trust your instincts. You are sufficiently worried to contact me here on the website, so follow your instincts, and get things checked out.

Best wishes

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Our users say:
Posted by: kinda the same thing...... | 2004/10/30

My best friend at school is going through the same thing. We are both in year 8 ,yet its like we are from other worlds. She has been self inflicting for 4 years now, but she has turned to smokeing just recently. It is quite stressful for me as her friend but if i was her mother it would be much worse. I just dont no what to expect anymore, like the other day she came to school with the word 'hell' carved into her thigh. It really scares me to see her like this yet she refuses to get help so she turns to me instead. I do believe it is important for teenagers who are going though something like this to have responsible friends. Maybe if you try and be more of a friend type figure than a mum, she might open up to you a bit more :)

Reply to kinda the same thing......
Posted by: NOT ALONE | 2004/10/21

My girl friend's daughter is showing very similar behavior, I remember a time when she would fall a sleep in my arms now I barley know her, she has burnt herself in many places and hides it well. above that she has cut designs into her arms stomach leggs and more discreet areas, in the hopes that she will not be discovered. She lies a lot too. We have not found any proof of drugs but she has been caught smoking. The trick which seems to help a bit is stable firm ground. and an eagle eye. I have become extreemly strict. and have taken many privillages away. After sending her to many different councellers and clinics my way has had the best response todate we are 3 weeks without self inflicted damage. The point you must stress is that you love her/him eventhough they are being punnished for the lies and doing the wrong thing explaine in detail why and finnish off letting them know that you still love them and hug them or they will feel that there is only punishment in the world. It is a cry for help just be carefull what help you give them. There is lots of information on the web about this illness. As this is what you must understand it is just like alcholisim or abuse. And be very carefull who she/he assosciates with, we had to cut he off from a few "Friends" who caused so much damage and influenced her so much she was expelled from school. you must be strong and take a lot of abuse, but stick to being strict and be constant about it do not waver at any time, or they will waver too. they are people who just get lost along the way and get sidetracked easier than most people. its our responsibility to be there for them till they can do it for themselves. Good luck

Reply to NOT ALONE
Posted by: my thought | 2004/10/15


I think your daughter has watched the movie came out a while now,,but when it did,,all the females were talking bout it in grade 9 and i hired the movie,,and your daughter sounds like she wants to be like that girl in the movie.

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