Something is Just Not Right

   Written by on September 28, 2017 at 11:16 am
Cheryl Gowin and Dennis Gowin.  Call us at our counseling practice with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions at 434-808-2637.

Cheryl Gowin and Dennis Gowin.  Call us at our counseling practice with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions at 434-808-2637.

Are you frightened that your child is cutting?  Do you feel something is just not right?  Sophia was doing dishes when her Mom noticed cuts on Sophia’s arm.  Sophia said her friend’s cat caused the cuts.  Liam’s Mom asked him why all his short sleeves shirts were in the stack going to the hurricane relief drive at church.  He said all his friends had stopped wearing short sleeves shirts.

The sad news is that “cutting” is an epidemic among our children that has spread across all cultures, social classes, and age groups.  All parents should know the warning signs.  Have you noticed a change in behavior, including spending more time in isolation?  Has your child begun to take long showers or spend excessive time in the bathroom?  Has your son or daughter started to wash their sheets and clothing?  Are you always out of toilet paper or facial tissue?  Does your child wear only long sleeves, even in the summer?  Have you noticed cuts that your child justifies with strange explanations?

Why do kids cut themselves?  Kids declare cutting helps them deal with difficult feelings, social pressure, and relationship problems.  They look to cutting to find relief from emotional pain or to express feelings of rage, sorrow, rejection, longing, or emptiness.  However, even kids who cut agree that it isn’t a good way to get relief because the relief doesn’t last.  The troubles that triggered the cutting remain; all the kids have done is masked the pain.

Usually, kids don’t intend to hurt themselves permanently and don’t mean to keep cutting.  Sadly, both can happen.  It is easy to misjudge and make the cut so deep that stitches are required.  Using dirty cutting instruments, like razors, scissors, pins, or even the sharp edge of the soda can tab, can result in an infected cut.   

Cutting often begins on an impulse.  Your child may not have thought about it ahead of time.  It can start when something really upsetting happened and your child didn’t know how to talk about it or what to do.  One teen explained his cutting as his way to distract from feelings of rejection and helplessness he couldn’t bear.

Cutting can also begin because friends are doing it.  A teen reported she started to cut because it seemed like if she didn’t do it, her friends would think she was afraid.  She did it once and then did not know how to tell her friends she wanted to stop without sounding lame.

Cutting can become a compulsive behavior.  The more a child cuts, the more he or she feels the need to cut.  Their brain starts to connect the false sense of relief from the bad feelings to the act of cutting, and it craves relief the next time tension builds.  When cutting becomes a compulsive behavior, it can seem impossible to stop.  The compulsive behavior of cutting can act like an addiction, where the urge to cut is hard to resist.  A behavior that starts as an attempt to feel more in control can end up controlling the child.   

How can you help?  You can’t force your child to stop.  It doesn’t help to get mad, lecture her, or beg him to stop.  Instead, let your child know you care, that he or she deserves to be healthy and happy, and that no one needs to bear his/her troubles alone.  Help your child see there are other ways to cope with difficulties and terrible emotional pain, even big problems.  The first step, and maybe the hardest step, is helping your child to be willing to talk about their cutting.  Part of talking is finding the right person to talk with such as a mental health professional, a teacher, a coach, or a trusted person at church.  Helping your child find a person they can talk with about their struggles begins the process of dealing with cutting.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.  Corinthians 10:13

Call us with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions; our phone number is 434-808-2637.

About Cheryl & Dennis Gowin

Cheryl Gowin, Counselor and Dennis Gowin, Director of Discovery Counseling Center. Contact us with your feedback, comments, issues or questions at 434-808-2426 or dgowin@discoverycounseling.org.

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