Helping Teens Who Hurt Themselves

Self-injurious behavior is any action that is intended hurt one’s own body. Teens engage in all sorts of self-injurious behavior, vialis 40mg including cutting their body, vcialis 40mg hitting themselves, dosage burning themselves, pulling out their hair, picking at their skin, poking at themselves and so on.

Why Do Kids Do It?
A teenager may use self-injury after a devastating or stressful event. The young person doesn’t always know how to deal with deeply troubling feelings in a healthy way.  Physical injury acts as a visible representation of emotional (internal and invisible) pain. It can also show others, without the use of words, that nurturing and solace is needed. Unfortunately, the act of self injuring only provides temporary relief, and once the physical wound heals the emotional pain returns full force.

More Reasons for Self Injury
Self-injury is often used to end the painful sensation of emotional apathy or numbness. It “wakes” a person up and allows some sort of feelings to flow again. Emotional numbing is an automatic defense process that occurs to people who have been badly emotionally wounded. For instance, many victims of physical, sexual or emotional abuse experience periods of numbing (sometimes alternating with periods of emotional flooding).

Moreover, the guilt and confusion that can occur from childhood abuse is often overwhelming. Sometimes adolescents “punish” themselves for being “bad” assuming that they must have deserved the abusive treatment they received. Self injury is then a form of self-abuse that is consistent with the youngster’s self-concept.

In addition, causing oneself pain can be a way of “taking control” of one’s situation. Sometimes a teenager feels very out of control, either due to abuse or due to other stresses. By initiating a physical injury, he or she has stopped being a helpless victim of circumstances. Instead of waiting for lightning to strike and burn them, these children strike the match themselves. In a superstitious sort of way, they might also think that the injury can prevent something worse from happening in their lives.

Teens also quickly discover that their behavior can control those around them. People react. Parents may stand up and take notice, seek therapy, feel guily. Friends may give extra attention or they may back off. The teen creates a tumult. It is a minor victory over helplessness.

Who Hurts Themselves?
Today, many kids hurt themselves. It is a social phenomenon. Once a teenager discovers a friend who engages in self-injury, she is more likely to try this form of communication herself. The most likely candidates for self injury include those whose expression of emotion (particularly anger) was discouraged during childhood, those who have a limited social support system, and those who have other mental health diagnoses such as OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), eating disorders, substance abuse and depression.

What are the Most Common Ways that Teens Hurt Themselves?

  • Cutting – When one makes cuts or scratches on their body with sharp objects such as knives, needles, razor blades or fingernails. The most frequent parts of the body that are harmed are the arms, legs, and the front of the torso because they are easy to reach and can be concealed under clothing.
  • Branding – When one burns themselves with a hot object or, Friction burn which is rubbing a pencil eraser on one’s skin.
  • Picking at skin or reopening wounds (Dermatillomania) – This is an impulse control disorder which is recognized by the constant impulse for one to pick at their own skin. It is usually done to the point that injury is caused which acts as a source of gratification or stress reliever.
  • Hair Pulling (trichotillomania) – An impulsive control disorder which appears to be a habit, addiction, or an obsessive compulsive disorder. It involves pulling hair out from any part of the body. When hair is pulled from the scalp the results are patchy bald spots on their head. Usually they wear hats or scarves to cover up their baldness. Irregular levels of serotonin or dopamine play a possible role in hair pulling.
  • Bone breaking, punching, or head banging – Usually seen with autism or severe mental retardation.
  • Numerous piercings or tattoos – Can be a self injurious activity if it involves pain and/or stress relief.

Is Self-Injury a Suicide Attempt?
When a person causes injury upon themselves it is usually done without suicidal intentions, yet there have been cases where accidental deaths have happened. When a person self injures they do it as a means to reduce stress. People who self injure themselves usually possess a faulty sense of self value and these harsh feelings can whirlwind into a suicidal attempt. Often the intentions of self harm can go too far and it is at that point where professional intervention is necessary.

How to Help a Self Injurer:

  • Understand that self injurious behavior is a need to have control over oneself and it is a self comforting act
  • Show the person that you care about them and that you want to listen to them
  • Encourage them to express their emotions, especially anger
  • Spend quality time doing activities that are pleasurable
  • Help them seek out a therapist or support group
  • Avoid judgmental remarks

How Can Teens Help Themselves?

  • Realize that it is a problem and that there are probably issues that are hurting on the inside that need professional guidance
  • Realize that self harm is not about being a bad person, rather understanding that this behavior which is seemingly helping is becoming a significant issue
  • Seek out a mentor that can help. This could be a friend, Rabbi, minister, counselor, or relative or any other person you feel comfortable talking to about this issue
  • Seek help to understand what triggers these behaviors
  • Understand that self inuring behaviors are a way to self calm and learn better ways to calm yourself

Treatments for Self Injury
Psychotherapy is recommended for kids who hurt themselves. Sometimes medication will also be helpful. A psychological assessment by a qualified mental health practitioner can determine the most appropriate course of action in each case. Here are some of the common treatments for teens who self injure:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy. This helps a person understand why they hurt themselves in healthier ways.
  • Therapies that deal with post traumatic stress disorder such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
  • Hypnosis or self-relaxation
  • Group therapy which helps minimize shame, and helps express emotion in a healthy way
  • Family therapy which can trace back to history of family stress and helps families deal with their family member who self injures in a non judgmental way. It also teaches them how to communicate more effectively with each other and reduces parent-child conflicts and relationship difficulties.
  • Antidepressants or anti anxiety medications to reduce the impulsivity of the of the action while the self injurer is going for therapy
  • In critical situations, a self injurer needs to be hospitalized with various approaches along with a team of professionals

Do Teens Recover From Self-Injury?
Yes! With proper treatment, the prognosis is excellent. Self-injury can be the crisis that brings a family to therapy. This is often a turning point in the family’s life, helping not only the self-injuring teen, but also other members of the family to reach higher levels of emotional well-being than ever before.

Rudeness and Disrespect

It once was that children feared their parents; nowadays, it’s more likely to be the other way around. Parents are often afraid of their own kids. Modern parents frequently feel helpless with their children and all the more so with their bigger kids. While they try to set up rules, set limits and run a tight ship, they find that their kids ignore the rules, break the boundaries and do whatever they want. Their disregard for parental authority applies to both action and words. It is no longer uncommon for children ten years old and up (old enough to know better) to impulsively blurt out whatever they want to, however they want to. If they want to holler, they will. If they want to hurl insults, they will. They’ll swear, threaten, get physical and do whatever else they feel like doing when they are displeased, upset or outraged. Disgruntled teens talk back.

Naturally, if a parent responds negatively to a child’s request, the youngster will feel at least displeased, possibly upset and on occasion, outraged. Feelings happen. However, many young people don’t seem to know how to express negative feelings in a way that preserves their dignity, preserves the dignity of others and maintains healthy, loving relationships. Mouthy teenagers do not only harm their parents; they harm themselves as well. Out-of-control teens (adolescents who are not thinking of the long-term consequences of their words or actions) experience more daily pain than their in-control counterparts. When teenagers know how to express their upset with sensitivity to the feelings of others (in this case, parents), they will enjoy all the benefits that good communication skills bring: peace in the home, emotional well-being, emotional love and support, mental stability and even, improved physical health.

Insisting on Respect
Parents will actually do their kids the favor of a lifetime if they are willing to insist on respectful communication. Parents who let their adolescents talk back disrespectfully actually help these children build strong brain pathways for verbal abuse. When these young people get married, those pathways will be solid as rock. Consequently, when feelings of frustration, anger and disappointment are triggered by their new spouses, their abusive brain pathways will light up and BAM: out will spew rude and hurtful words that will burn a deep whole in the new relationship. Rude teenagers grow up to be rude spouses. Rude teens can even grow up to be rude parents! Maturity does not bring respect. Education and training does.

By insisting on respect, parents can help their children build strong brain pathways for self-control. While adrenalin is running, triggered by intense feelings of upset, the self-control pathways will light up. Although the young person may feel like slamming a door, screaming or ranting, he or she will quietly utter a statement instead. “I’m not happy about this” or “I want to talk with you about this again later” or “Is there any way you might reconsider?” or “Would it help if I did such & such?” and so on.

Let’s take an example. Suppose 13 year-old Suzy asks Mom if she can go to a party that 17 year-old Joey is making Saturday night. Mom feels that Suzy is too young for this kind of party and says, “I know you’d really like to go Sweetheart. Unfortunately, I feel Joey and his friends are too old for you. I don’t want you to go.”

Suzy is more than upset. She is hysterical. So she answers back: “I’M NOT LISTENING TO ANYTHING YOU SAY. I’M GOING AND THAT’S IT. THERE’S NO WAY YOU CAN STOP ME!”

Mom has two choices: either ignore the disrespect or address it. If Mom ignores the disrespect she has two choices: she can pretend nothing happened and simply respond to Suzy’s words (i.e. answering fairly calmly, “We’ll see about that.”) or she can actually join in the disrespect by shouting or insulting back (i.e. “TRY IT YOUNG LADY AND YOU’LL SEE WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU!). Either way, ignoring the disrespect ensures that more disrespect will be coming in the future. Ignoring allows the teen to build up the disrespect neural pathway in the brain. Failure to deal with disrespect is actually a form of parental neglect because when the child goes on to have trouble in other significant relationships, it will be due to the fact that no one ever taught her how to express displeasure sensitively. (In fact, if Mom actually screams back, she is actually modeling the dysfunctional communication strategy of yelling when upset).

So let’s hope that Mom decides to address the disrespect. If she does, she has two choices: either she can stop the conversation then and there and deal with the disrespect immediately, or she can wait until things are calmer later on and deal with the disrespect at that time. In this case, it is good to follow the concept of the “teaching moment” as described in the book Raising Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe. A true “teaching moment” is one in which both the parent and the child are calm and relaxed. Since the child in this example is currently hysterical, the period cannot be called a “teaching moment.” Mom decides to wait until later to teach her daughter  how to express displeasure sensitively.

The Relationship Rule
If a child has been taught The Relationship Rule while very young, it is extremely unlikely that he or she will be rude to a parent in adolescence. Indeed, the younger the child is when self-control is taught, the less likely it is that the child will ever talk back, insult or otherwise hurt a parent’s feelings or diminish a parent’s stature. However, The Relationship Rule can certainly be taught to teenagers (or even spouses!). Some patience will be required, however, to allow time for new brain pathways to form and for this new mode of communication to become the fall-back position during moments of emotional stress.

The Relationship Rule can be put in two ways – the positive and the negative forms:

  • I only give and I only accept respectful communication.
  • I do not give, nor do I accept, disrespectful communication.

A parent teaches The Relationship Rule in 5 simple steps (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for complete details). Step One involves teaching the actual rule by providing the rationale for the rule (especially for older children and teens) and by giving numerous examples, role-plays and re-enactments in order to see how this rule is applied under stressful conditions. After providing education and examples, the parent tests the teen. The parent asks, for instance, what is the wrong way for a son to respond to a parent who has refused to buy an MP3 player for him? What is the right way?

Step Five, the last step of the training program, employs negative consequences. Before this step, no punishments are used for disrespectful speech because all steps before this last one are designed to actually train the child’s brain to be respectful. The intervening steps allow the parent to be empathic and responsive to the child’s feelings. The last step is employed only to prevent regressing back to the old brain pattern.

Teaching The Relationship Rule means both teaching it through instruction and guidance, and also modeling it. Obviously parents themselves must have the self-control to continue to be sensitive to the feelings of others even when they themselves are intensely upset. Many parents will be challenged in this area since their own parents didn’t raise them with The Relationship Rule. However, the family that learns together, grows together. It’s fine for parents and kids to improve at the same time. All that is required is sincerity (i.e the parent acknowledges mistakes and actually reduces their frequency over time).

Sometimes, lack of education is not the only culprit in a teenager’s trouble with respect. There can be other issues such as undiagnosed mental health conditions and deeper emotional problems. If, after applying The Relationship Rule, improvement is not forthcoming, do arrange for a consultation for your family with a professional mental health provider.

Bad Moods

Some people are always in a good mood. The moody child isn’t one of them. He’s known for his frown, his complaints and his tantrums that occur frequently enough that his parents call him “moody.” Some moody kids are actually in a bad mood from the time they get up in the morning till the time they go to sleep at night. Their glass is always half empty; nothing is ever just right. They feel sad, hurt, angry, neglected, abandoned, mistreated, and generally unhappy. They feel this way even when their parents are normal, kind people trying their best.

Some moody kids have alterations in their emotional states, moving from miserable to content off and on throughout the day. They may be happy as long as things are going their way, but then, blow up when there is a hitch (when Mom says “no” or anticipated plans fail, for example). Some moody kids actually travel daily across a spectrum of emotional states ranging from lows to highs: from grumpy to delightful to enraged to ecstatic to grief stricken to full of joy.

Why are Kids Moody?
Children and adults can experience temporary moodiness that is out of their normal stable character. This occurs when people haven’t eaten well or haven’t slept enough or when they’re coming down with an illness. It can occur also when there is an unusual amount of stress or pressure or chaos. For instance, in the days before “moving day” a family may find itself living in a house that is full of boxes, unable to locate needed clothing or pots or what have you, living without the comforts of home for some days before and after the actual move. During this period the whole family may be in a bad mood. However, once they are settled, the mood will also settle and the family members will return to their normal pleasant states.

People who have experienced a trauma may suffer a number of symptoms such as trouble sleeping, panic attacks and uncharacteristic irritability. Once the trauma is treated, the bad mood will lift. Living in a chronically stressful situation can also affect mood in otherwise normal kids and grownups. Going through a difficult, drawn-out divorce, for example, can put everyone in a bad mood for some years.

Some people have bad moods because of their diet. Excess sugar and caffeine can negatively affect mood in anyone; after chocolate milk and cookies kids can become grumpy, angry and sour. Some kids have sensitivities to ingredients in foods or they have allergies or food intolerances. These can all cause irritability and bad mood. Once the diet is adjusted, the mood will improve.

However, chronic bad mood, including the alternating moods described above, that are not explained by temporary circumstances or health issues may better be explained by inherited characteristics. Irritable mood in children can be a precursor of adult depression. In adults depression manifests as sadness with other physical and emotional symptoms. However, in children, depression is expressed as irritability and regular bad mood. Adults may treat their depressions with therapy and/or medication. These treatments are rarely employed in the treatment of children’s mood issues, reserved for particularly severe cases of emotional dysfunction. However, there are many alternative treatments for children’s mood issues that can be very effective.

Helping Heal Bad Moods
Naturopathic treatments can be quite helpful. Bach Flower Therapy, for example, is a form of vibrational medicine that is harmless and yet powerful. Like beautiful music (another form of “vibrational medicine”), Bach Flowers lift mood gently. This form of treatment can decrease negativity, tantrums, discouragement, jealousy, anger, rigidity and other low-mood characteristics. You can learn more about Bach Flower Therapy online and/or find a Bach Flower Practitioner to further guide you.

There are many other naturopathic and alternative treatments for children’s mood issues. Essential Fatty Acid (EFA) supplementation and other nutritional support can be very therapeutic for all mood issues and particularly in the treatment of alternating high and low moods. A nutritionist experienced in the treatment of children’s mood disorders can design a therapeutic diet for your child. Homeopathic treatment, cranial sacral work, acupuncture and other treatments all have been found to be helpful and safe in the treatment of mood issues. Although some research and experimentation may be necessary until the right treatment is found for your youngster, it is worth the trouble. Helping a child grow up more happily not only brings him (and you!) more happiness, it also affects his developing brain for the future.

Behavioral treatment of mood disorders can be carried out by you in your home. It is helpful to use “emotional coaching” in response to a child’s expressions of unhappiness. This involves naming and accepting his feeling. “Yes, I see you’re upset,” or “Yes, it’s very disappointing,” or “You’re really mad about this” are simple statements that you can make to your disgruntled youngster. What should NOT be said is, “You’re never happy about anything!” or “I’m tired of your complaints” or “There’s no reason for you to be so unhappy.” A parent’s irritation only makes matters worse. Emotional coaching, on the other hand, has been shown to help children become more emotionally intelligent over time, better able to remain calm and emotionally stable, perform better in school, do better socially, emotionally and even physically. Emotional coaching—the naming and welcoming of all feelings—eventually helps children suffer less frequent and less intense negative emotion.

It isn’t necessary to try to make a moody child happy. And it isn’t really possible. Rather, focus on accepting that the child is in pain. Moody kids don’t want to be grumpy and unhappy. They are victims of their genes and inborn temperaments. They deserve your sympathy, support and compassion. Showing your child you care about his or her mood issues by seeking out treatment is a powerful message in itself.

It is hard to parent children with chronically bad moods. Be sure to take care of yourself: manage your stress, exercise, socialize, take breaks and laugh. Your moody child needs you to be in a good mood!