Is your teen self-harming?

Is your teen self-harming?

Being a teen is hard; there is no manual for getting through teenage issues. So, when they struggle, is it any wonder they turn to unhelpful coping mechanisms or even self-destructive behaviour?

Self-harming behaviour can be distressing for the teen and those around them because they may not understand why they cut themselves, and it may also leave parents with a sense of failure, blame or shame. This in itself can make communication harder.

It may be assumed that if a teen is cutting themselves they must be suicidal. This is normally not the case.

NSPCC have this to say about self-harm:

“Self-harm can take lots of physical forms, including cutting, burning, bruising, scratching, hair-pulling, poisoning and overdosing. There are many reasons why children and young people try to hurt themselves, and once they start, it can become a compulsion. That’s why it’s so important to spot it as soon as possible and do everything you can to help. Self-harm isn’t usually a suicide attempt or a cry for attention. Instead, it’s often a way for young people to release overwhelming emotions. It’s a way of coping. So, whatever the reason, it should be taken seriously.”

I often hear young people say that friends and family think they are seeking attention. It is important to know that this isn’t usually the case.

Being a teen today brings many challenges. Some of these challenges won’t go away as they come with the territory. Some of the issues counsellors can spot within their work with teens who self-harm are:

  • Loneliness.
  • Fear they will lose their closest friendships.
  • Lack of confidence.
  • Inability to express anger.
  • Lack of control over their lives.

These reasons can be very similar for adults; however teens are still learning to navigate their emotional landscape.

Q-Does this mean I have failed as a parent?

A-No, what it does mean is that your child is struggling with something which may or may not have anything to do with you. They are growing up, and experiencing real life issues that they just don’t know how to manage more effectively.

Q-What can I do to help my teen who is self-harming?

A-Listen without judgement or wanting to change them. Address any wounds, and don’t forget first-aid is important. Don’t tell them to stop – if they could, they would.

Seek professional help, with the safeguarding lead at your teen’s school or a private counsellor. If you are distressed by your teen’s behaviour then get help to manage your own emotions so that you can help your teen. I will repeat the first point of listening without judgement. Don’t use phrases like, “I don’t understand why you cut yourself” or “Is this my fault?”

If you are concerned that your teen may be cutting themselves or know someone who is impacted by self-harming, please get in touch with a counsellor. We are all here to help.

Should we ignore negative emotions?

Should we ignore negative emotions?

A splinter in your finger or a pebble in your shoe are both uncomfortable physical sensations. If we experience either, we are encouraged to reach for the tweezers or take our shoe off, to relieve our discomfort.

When we feel anxious, sad or angry for example, we are presented with a host of uncomfortable physical sensations. Some of the physical sensations can be dizziness, heart palpitations, tummy discomfort or muscle tension.

Like with the splinter or the pebble we seek to remedy the situation. We ask questions and investigate. We draw our attention to the discomfort and without much thought we are able to take action because we’ve dealt with this before and it worked, therefore we know that a pair of tweezers will help the pain experienced by the splinter.

What do we do when we experience uncomfortable emotions? Do we pay close attention or do we label these sensations (called feelings) and ignore them?

Whether we think an emotion is “good” or “bad” it is part of a group. Emotions come as a package not in isolation. When we discount our feelings by minimising them, we are in some way doing this for all feelings and emotions. If we succeed in dampening one, we might discover that the ones we desire such as joy, love or pride are dampened as well.

So it is easy to see how we can get into a sticky situation where we no longer experience healthy emotional levels and feel flat, we could be heading for depression. Another extremity is feeling too much emotion and being overwhelmed when we can no longer manage emotions in a healthy way which could be anxiety. If you are nodding your head and thinking “yes, I can see that” and want to learn new healthy ways of managing your emotional discomfort, I would encourage you to give time to the negative emotions as well as positive. This does not mean to say that we pity ourselves.

I will leave you with this question – “are you seeking relief from an emotional splinter?”

Has the flame gone out?

Has the flame gone out?

Emotions were high, you couldn’t get enough of each other, sex was it’s best. Now you’ve been together 10 years, had a couple of kids, mortgage etc and the pazzaz is gone out of your relationship.

You are so close you can predict what he will choose for dinner when you go out, you know which movie she will choose.

So what is the problem? You are close, but this closeness seems to be creating a distance which is painful. Maybe you’ve considered having an affair to find that pazzaz again, if even for a little while.

Love and being in a relationship can create a paradox in that the thing we seek the most, closeness and oneness with our beloved is the thing that kills the passion, excitement and wonder in our relationship.

You may have tried to get even closer by having “date night”, or buying flowers, or sexy underwear. “So why is it not working?” “Is our relationship doomed?” The harder we try the further apart we get.

The answer may rest in the gap which is swallowed up by being too close. Couples therapy with someone who understands the dynamics of such a merging can help to re-establish that mystery and excitement.

Are you experiencing that feeling of being “stuck”?

Are you experiencing that feeling of being "stuck"?
Have you ever felt that you were not living to your full potential? Would you use the word “stuck” when describing how you feel in life? Do you wish you could just “get on with it”, like you see others do? I like to use the analogy of a bird that stays in the cage, even though the door is open. Invisible barriers. While the bird can fly, and other birds do fly, one does not, but longs to. What gets in the way? What is that invisible barrier? Why does the bird not fly, even though there is no physical barrier?

Outdated messages

We are conditioned from childhood to be cautious, to keep us safe, and perhaps rightly so. “Don’t jump on the bed, you will fall off and break your arm” or “Don’t talk to stranger”. These messages serve us when we are kids, however they serve to limit us when we are older and want to achieve more with our lives. The child who was told not to jump on the bed, may survive youth intact, however they might not grow up to be risk takers. The child who does not talk to strangers may be safe, however may not feel overly confident in speaking in public.

False messages

Have you ever said “I can’t do that” or “I am not good at that”? Again, like outdated messages, false messages can be unhelpful and inhibitive. We can often tell ourselves things that are actually not true. When I hear “I can’t” I always think of the phrase “We can put a man on the moon, so why can’t…”. How does the bird leave the cage which he is imprisoned by? The following steps could be useful:
  • Be clear about what it is you would like to do that you are not currently able to
  • Look at the message that comes up when you think of doing what you want to
  • Challenge the message, “is it true”? Sometimes the answer is yes, which means looking for alternative ways to achieve what you would like. If the answer is no, ..
  • Begin to test the theory and learn to replace the message with a helpful and more accurate message, such as “I can do it, if I have help”,
In most cases “can’ts” are in the mind and are not accurate. We know when something is truly impossible and struggle less than when we know deep down that things are possible. I would invite anyone who experiences a feeling of being stuck to examine the evidence and challenge the outdated and false message that are holding you back from doing or achieving your desires.