The Scary World of Tweens – Cutting

alicia and grace

It was an evening last week when I learned that my Tween, a very sensitive and empathic girl, is chatting with a friend who is, at the same time over the phone with another friend escorting the local police searching for another (fourth) friend suspected of trying to commit suicide, per her FB.

In case you’ve lost me, this is the situation: My kid is sitting on her bed trembling and crying, while I am staring at her I-pad unbelievably, chat lines running extremely fast saying:  “Diane is not at the living room… wait, looking for her at the kitchen…not there! Perhaps she already did it! Wait, the police is entering the bathroom… Here she is! She is alive! She tried to kill herself!” Etc.

Once I was sure that Diane (which my daughter is not familiar with) is ok, and that her parents are aware of what’s happening in their house, I was available to take care of my Tween.

It was only then that I started to understand what my daughter’s world is made of:

She told me about girls trying to take their lives (as far as I understood she is daily exposed to that through FB), and about many girls around “cutting”.


I mean, most of us have heard about certain situations in which girls are engaged in self harm, but hey, am I the only one around who didn’t know that this has lately become a trend?

Quote – “Mom, do you expect me to believe that you’ve never seen all these girls whose arms are covered in the summer???”

Sorry, no…never!

I insisted, and learned that many of her FB friends, including some she personally knows (at least one is a good friend) “cut”.

Then she showed me theses endless FB groups called  “Don’t hurt yourself” etc., where many girls are discussing this (As, “yesterday I cut a lot”!)

I was a Tween before (long ago, I admit). I don’t recall that my world was full of suicidal attempts and of girls cutting. How did it become so frightening and so violent for children?

I was asking around, and non of my mom – friends heard about it, so I called the school staff, none heard about it as well. Just when I started to think that it’s all a dream (a nightmare, you might call it), I watched ” The Good Wife” season 4 episode 8:

Grace telling Alicia about girls cutting. At least I am not the only shocked mom around, thank god.



January 9, 2013 · 10:27 am

384 responses to “The Scary World of Tweens – Cutting

  1. Perhaps what’s new isn’t the neurotic behavior so much as the widespread communication? Which I suppose forces parents to accommodate some subjects earlier than we were exposed to them ourselves.
    Should we not, were leaving major teachings to unknown sources, an abdication, seems to me, of parental responsibilities…

    • Wow! I have an 11 year old and the things they have to deal with and at such a young age is surreal. I appreciate the reminder to pay attention, be diligent in seeking information and to not look so stunned when inevitably I will be.

    • I have just posted an item on my Blog on Parenting – Punishment v Discipline. It explains how wounded we all are as parents and that it is only when we step up to the mark as Parents that change can occur and children learn the skills to be balanced,confident self-assured adults.
      Love, light and inspirational thoughts.

  2. G'ma Becca

    I remember being 12. And I remember having 12 year-olds. It just seems to become harsher and more dangerous. Kuddos to you for tuning in to your daughter instead of out!

  3. When I was 13, in 2003, a close friend of mine revealed to me that she cut herself. She spent part of the summer after 8th grade at a facility that was supposed to help her after her parents and the school found out, but I know she continued during the following year. I’ve never told my mother about it. I always wished the adults around me were more approachable to discussing topics like that. I’m glad you seem to be providing support for your daughter in this harsh world.

  4. Wendy

    Thanks for writing about this subject. I am now 60 years old and back in 1965, my friends and I used to cut ourselves. It is VERY common (not normal) among teen-aged girls. I cut because I was coping with infant trauma from surgery without anesthesia–early invasive medical trauma. My friend cut because, I believe, she was being physically abused by one or both of her parents and maybe, sexually abused as well. Many children, in response to unresolved trauma, cut. It’s one way of ‘cutting’ through the numbness. When the crisis in our lives hit, we numbed out. We froze. We never figured out how to overcome the shock of the trauma. We needed help–help resolving old trauma. I didn’t know this at the time. None of us did. Some of the boys in our little group put cigarettes out in their arms or stepped on lit butts with bare feet. There are endless ways of torturing ourselves if we’ve been tortured early on. Cutting is not new. It’s hidden. And, it seems, most don’t want to talk about it. Bravo for writing and expressing your concern. btw, SIAD or Self-Injury Awareness Day, just happened; I think it was March 1st. I saw a woman at the post office wearing an orange t-shirt with SIAD written on it. Apparently, lots of folks are trying to get support and make people aware of the problem.

  5. Thanks for writing this. I’ve heard similar stories from my sister and a friend. It is scary… and sad. It becomes so difficult to know what to do and what to say. All we can do is listen, trust and help them grow strong everyday.

  6. I would say it started becoming a “thing” in the mid to late 90’s. That is when I was really exposed to it myself as a pre-teen to teenager. I knew quite a few people who did it and even a couple of guys. I realized it was a serious issue when people noted the marks on my arms and wrists–I had a cat at the time and I would cup her head in my hand and she would grab hold of my arm and we’d wrestling. I was always getting scratched up and no one had ever bothered to notice it before. Due to the issue with cutting I had to talk to my school counselor about the cuts I had. I really think she thought I was lying about the cat because she had to call my mother to confirm my story. It was an odd situation and definitely a sort of eye-opener as to what people would go through. My thoughts at the time were something along the lines of… “Why can’t they just be obsessed with popping their zits like normal teens instead of cutting?” My therapist at the time suggested it was really the same thing to an extent–it came down to pain and control. Sorry your daughter has to hear about such awful things!

  7. Thank you for liking my posts at I also have an almost 12 year old and was completely blindsided by this post. I guess communication is the key to helping your teen. Thanks for the info and I’m glad I found your blog!

  8. I just have to add, I find it hard to believe that no one at your daughter’s school had heard of this. It is widely known! You mention that at 12 you didn’t know about these things. Maybe most healthy from stable families kids didn’t know. But I am 41 years old, and at 12 I attempted suicide for the first time through overdose. I attempted suicide several times through my teens. My eating disorder started in 8th grade, and I have been bulimic on and off ever since. Eating Disorders often lead into self injury, and that is what happened with me. To the person whose therapist said that popping pimples was basically the same thing as cutting: that therapist should lose his or her license. Cutting is a deeply rooted behavior. It is usually a sign of serious emotional pain. Many people who cut or burn themselves like myself, have been sexually molested. Kids usually pop their pimples because they want to have clearer skin. If that is done obsessively it is called body dysmorphic disorder. Honestly, as a cutter trying to stay clean, that comment makes me very angry. I hope this has been helpful.

    • Erika, your post syncs with my experience with kids that wrestled with this issue in the 90’s. I wonder how much of this was either the impetus behind, or maybe even the response to, popular, dramatic books on these issues that teens and young adults were drawn to during this time. I attended a lecture by David Caloff during this era, and it was scary to be sure, but also a “popular” subject. It always makes me wonder whether the drama associated with this strong, scary and sexy issue made it a teen focal point, and from there a disease that feeds upon itself.

      I am not diminishing the pain I have seen caused by incest and other sexual abuse. I myself was traumatized by some pre-teen sexual encounters that robbed me of my innocence. They were not even physical! It was exhibitionism, with threats that did it!

      Pre-teens and teens are such impressionable humans– today’s experience is HUGE, and then tomorrow’s is HUGE again. So they are HUGELY affected almost all the time, and the focus follows the hugeness. So we get fads. It is confusing to people outside the child’s real world, and parents will hope “it’s just a stage.” Sometimes it isn’t! How can we tell?

      We try hard to cut through the static and get to the truth. So so difficult, and heartbreaking, often.

  9. We all had our “drug” of choice; some cut, some did actual drugs or drank, and some of us ate ourselves into self-induced prisons of fat and self-loathing. As a sexually abused child and teenager (age 4 to roughly 14) I knew girls (way back in the late 60’s, early 70’s) who cut, and others who snuck alcohol or valium from their parents. I was too afraid to try either of those, so I ate; loaves of bread (sometimes straight from the freezer in the basement), boxes of Twinkies and Ho-Ho’s, bags of Reeces Peanut Butter Cups, mashed potatoes retrieved from the garbage pail after dinner. Anything and everything to stuff down the feelings of terror, pain and loneliness I felt while being raped and sodomized by a member of my own family. My point is, so many young girls (and boys) are suffering, most often in silence, for so many reasons. I lived with two working, usually arguing parents, and three siblings, and no one noticed I’d gained nearly 100 pounds inside of less than one year. Or if they did … they didn’t care enough to speak to me about it, to ask what was wrong. Moral of the story is just this; parents must keep their eyes open and engage their children. Talk to them about everything. And keep talking. (NOT LECTURING) Ask about their day, their school work, their interests, their friends, their fears, their dreams. We adults tend to talk a good game about how our children are our future, but that future’s going to be pretty dismal if we don’t reach out and truly reach these children in their time of need. Thank you for starting this dialogue with your excellent piece!

    • Thank you for your excellent comment ! It is so important for people to know what so many of us have gone through. I am sad that there are still parents out there who think their kids are not in “that kind of school”. Like you said, we all had our “drug of choice”, and kids today do as well. I know this is a cliché but parents need to realize this is ‘the new normal’. Normal schools have kids who get bullied and kids who are bullied. Normal schools have kids playing the choking game. Normal schools have cutters, anorexics, bulimics, users, dealers, racists, abusers, and anything else you can think of. These kids were there at my high school 24 years ago. The only difference now is that we hear about everything more because of cellphones, the internet, facebook, twitter-ad infinitum. The worst mistake parents can make is to pretend their kids are safe.

  10. It is quite sad. I don’t want my kids be exposed to such an environment at school and such pressure from peers that they feel that they need to hurt themselves.

    Should I take them into a deserted island in order for them to grow up normally? It makes me scared. We didn’t have things like that growing up. Are there still any normal schools/high schools out there where kids do not get bullied and have a normal life?

  11. That must have been such a scary experience for you. Unfortunately there is so much pressure on the younger generation today and they are dealing with emotional issues that we dealt with at 16, 17, 18 years of age, It is therefore any wonder that they find it hard to cope? I hope your daughter and her friend are ok, she is lucky to have you to guide her through this maze. Some children are not so lucky.

  12. 3 million Americans are self harming right now.
    A great post. 🙂

  13. Thanks for stopping by my blog and for the like. Great site you have here.

  14. It was a long time ago when I was 12, too 😉
    I never knew anyone who cut when I was growing up, but there were plenty of other ways kids expressed their pain. The way dysfunction and pain is acted out might be changing -I would agree it seems more violent now- but kids need an outlet. If parents aren’t listening and/or protecting (or worse, are the ones causing the pain) kids will find a way to relieve the pain and anxiety.
    Our society is so focused on being ‘happy’ instead of healthy, we treat the symptoms (ie: you must stop cutting) and ignore the root issues of what’s actually going on. (abuse/dysfunction/family issues etc)
    That’s my soapbox for the day!

  15. Sadly cutting isn’t new. My 15 year old experimented with it at about age 11 and with therapy, consequences and family support it didn’t go far. However, having support,counseling and stability didn’t stop her from experimenting with drugs and other things. I personally am so torn with the new and wonderful social media outlets that are so accessible to young children. I’m glad that they have a way of communicating but this “technological neighborhood” is exposing our kids to people, opportunities and situations they would never have met, had or known if their world was like ours (I’m 43) and limited to the confines of the neighborhood. So many people say the answer is monitoring and in a perfect world that is true but these children are so resourceful and they have the encouragement of their peers to log onto “facebook, whirled, twitter, myspace, orkut, friendster, tumblr, instagram, etc., etc.” on their friends phones, homes or laptops and I can’t tell you how many schools allow access to facebook and the afore mentioned. I can’t be with my child 24 hours a day and with hidden accounts being so easy to create I can’t even really track what they are doing or whom on those accounts. It’s a scary thing. *** Sorry for my tangent – I’ll step off my soap box now ***

  16. weakleykevin

    Your blog is full of helpful advice that can empower and provide insightful advice for parents going through some of the same situations. Thanks for stopping by my blog and liking my posts.

  17. mzrchange

    Loll, I love your blog and I can’t wait for your next post! As an actual teenager I think that you hit it dead-on! 😀 😛

  18. I wonder how many kids would do this on their own if they hadn’t read about it in books and seen it in the teen movies and tv shows and stuff. I don’t know what the solution is, but it sure seems like as our entertainment and media gets more and more bizarre, so do our kids.

  19. It is scary! I teach at a HS and yes it has become more pronounced in the last 5-10 years. It isn’t the only scary thing they are doing ( like cutting off circulation to the brain to get a high rush)but it is one of them. Thanks for sharing. The more moms, teachers, friends, etc that know this is going on and that it isn’t just a prime time TV issue somewhere else, the better. We can all help watch our ( personal or other) kids.

  20. Times are vastly different now for children then they were way back in the late 80’s and early 90’s when I was coming of age. I really do not think the differences are positive. I had heard about pre teens and teenagers cutting themselves about ten years ago. It is a form of self mutilation and a way they secretly punish themselves for something they think is not going well or working out right. This is not a judgement, so please don’t take it this way, but Facebook and Twitter and Springform are not a place for children. They were not created with the intent of adolescents using them. I also do not think they need cellphones. We all grew up without them. My oldest is ten. He doesn’t have a facebook account or a cellphone. Parent controls are installed on both our computer and our cableboxes. The result is, I have what a lot of people consider a pretty naive ten year old, but when I think about it, he is exactly as he should be. I wish i could protect him even more sometimes. He has the rest of his life to be an adult. I will do all I can to preserve his innocence for now. Next year he has his Puberty Presentation. THAT is going to be an eye opener. good luck and I am so sorry you experienced this with your daughter. It is very hard to be a teenage girl, I remember it all too well.

  21. Reblogged this on ramblings of a crazed mom and commented:
    This was a very interesting and eye opening post from a fellow blogger. Please take the time to read. There are always new things out there that our children are unfortunately discovering.

  22. I was 12 less than a decade ago, and it was HORRIBLE. My brother is turning 12 soon, and he’s already getting very angsty. I don’t want to sound cliche, but I really think that part of it is that Disney Channel and a lot of the sitcom style kids tv shows display kids who are supposedly their age doing things they really shouldn’t be doing- as in having relationships, going to the mall, being places without your parents. They never show kids doing their homework, going to swim practice, and having fun at sleepovers. I felt like I was missing out on something, and that my parents were preventing me from doing these things, but it was all fictional. I was also upset because I had bad acne in middle school, FAR worse than what I have now, and I didn’t know what to do with it. I wore a training bra until 8th grade and just felt constantly humiliated by how dorky and uncomfortable I looked and felt. It’s the age, and it was, in my case, the terribly nonacademic middle school I went too. I found other dorks to hang out with, and that solved my problems. I got involved with my middle school’s theater, debate, where people who didn’t like moping went. I’d suggest that if it’s available. Keep her as busy as possible. And also, can’t you not have a facebook account until 13? That was the rules when I was her age.

  23. Also, to the parents concerned about highschool, a subject I am an expert on: Highschool, for me, WAS SO MUCH BETTER. Even this week, when I’ve been rejected by 3 universities on the same day and also had a fight with the girl who was my bestfriend in middle school, I am 40 times as happy as I was on a given week in middle school. I go to a incredibly diverse (and I mean it) and high achieving public high school in Texas that values giving freedom to students. I joined debate, started my own club, and in general got to CHOOSE the people I hung out with. My school has more than 3.5 k people though, so the selection is huge, and I never feel judged by an “in crowd” because it’s too big to have one. I also grew out of being so selfish once I started doing weekly volunteer work. It wasn’t necessarily fun- it’s been very stressful and emotionally chafing in other ways- but I’ve never been judged for being a nerd or enjoying reading or not wanting to drink. Encourage your child to keep all their options open- I never thought I would enjoy debate as an 8th grader, but when I joined in high school, I fell in love. I also thought I hated math, but I’ve done really well in math. Things change.

  24. That is just plain frightening. My kids aren’t quite near the ‘tween’ stage yet, and this post makes me worry even more!

  25. I remember being 12 and things were pretty bad. Facebook hadn’t started up yet but I knew people who had tried to commit suicide, and the whole school knew who they were, in fact there was a girl in my elementary school who made a suicide attempt. I myself have had depression issues for a long time, beginning about age 12, and harmed myself early on when dealing with the depression. I think a big factor is that through TV and internet and various mass media sources kids are being exposed to the harsher side of reality earlier, when they’re not emotionally equipped to deal with it, and that often it can be difficult for kids to get the support that they need from their parents. I don’t mean to imply that it is somehow the parents’ fault, because I don’t think it is, it’s just a part of the family dynamic that has changed. With both parents often working and modern lifestyles being much more hectic both for kids and adults, it is easy for family members to get out of touch with each other, which weakens our built in family support system and makes kids more vulnerable to all kinds of social pressures. Of course at age 12 they’re not thinking like that, they’re just thinking their parents don’t care and they’re never around, and that can do really harsh things to a mind that is already pretty confused with hormones, and changing social situations in school.

  26. Thank you for stopping by ‘tasteandlight’ (via therantingchef). My daughter who I wrote about in ‘macaroni cheese’ developed anorexia at 15 – and yes, cutting herself was also something she did. She is 28 now and fine, but I still remember having to unlock the bathroom door from the outside and mop up the blood. It was a traumatic time for the whole family. I’m sure there are some very emphatic comments above – I haven’t read them – mostly young people get through these difficulties eventually. Rob.

  27. This is a whole new scary world. Children just don’t get to stay children very long. I never had to worry about this with my own girls, but now do with my four grandchildren. Thank you for this post, it’s made me realize that I have to try and do something about this.

  28. It is very sad to see a child have to deal with adult issues.
    Your daughter is blessed to have someone there for her when she is scared.
    I grew up dealing with adult issues due to a dysfunctional home and I would have given anything to have a loving Mother there.
    Your daughter is very blessed.
    Bravo, to the Mothers that take their job and their children seriously!!

  29. It is a scary world out there for parents as well as their kids. My daughter is nineteen and navigating high school with her was challenging. I am very lucky in that my daughter liked talking to me and let me into the loop. We also did counseling together when the social situation at school got to be too much. That is the only advice that I can give to any parent, let your child know that you are on their side and listen, listen, listen. Not so much do the talking but 100% do the listening. Great blog that you have and kids aren’t the only ones who need to be listened to, parents need it as well. 🙂

  30. I suppose it has to do with the situation these girls are in. I was 8 when I first thought about ending my worthless life. I didn’t do it, because I was told that – if I did it – my beloved grandmother would drop dead, as she had a heart condition. And that would be MY FAULT then. So I better shouldn’t, if I wasn’t to have that guilt upon me. I remember falling asleep with the thought that I would need to wait for my Grandmother dying first, but then, then I would be free. That was in 1972, and I was 8.

    I did cut my wrist in 1977, but not the right way, so I didn’t bleed out fast. A guy walking his dog found me. Well, more likely the dog did, not the guy. In the hospital where they stitched me up I was instructed how to do it right next time. They were incredibly annoyed that they were disturbed in their Thursday night. Maybe there was a soccer game on, I don’t know.

    I have cut my arms during 1979, pretending it being tattoos. I have cut names into my arms, but you would need a lot of fantasy to recognize the names I meant to write. Without knowing that phenomenon of cutting then, I guess I was doing just that.

    What I am trying to say is: this is not new. I was an abused child forced to live with the abusers, because they wee my biological gene pool sources (I would never call these people “parents”), and I assume this was a way out, or at least an attempt to release some pressure.

    I am still cutting my fingertips sometimes, around the nails. It doesn’t hurt at all while I am doing it. The skin is easy to cut off, I feel a relief but no pain. The pain comes later, hours later. But I am used to it, did that all my life, it is a part of my life. I will turn 50 this year.

    I believe, the difference with those young girls is: we had no Facebook or other social media in real time. Our magazine was reporting once a week about things that had happened 2 months ago. Like the concerts of our favourite bands etc. There was no such thing as real time, unless it was in front of you.

    I believe the best way to protect your daughter from that is: love her, be there for her, listen to her nonsense (it is not nonsense to her, it is absolutely real and seriously important!), and never let her down, never abandon her, never threaten her. But I assume you are not doing any of that anyway.

  31. Pingback: Just read a blog post about young girls cutting themselves | Hilde in Amerika

  32. The world is moving at a much faster pace than we used to know it…God save and protect these young ones!

  33. I think these things have always been, just now more out in the open. Which is a good thing because at least people know now what to look for.

  34. It stays scary even when they are in college. We were lucky. At age 12, our daughter did not have her own iPad or an Internet connection in the home. We had the family computer hooked to the Internet and that was it and it was on another floor.

    However, in high school, our daughter had to use the Internet for homework and then she joined Facebook. Today she’s in her 3rd year at Stanford and more into the Internet than ever. This cyber world our children were born into is a scary place where ideas and concepts and behaviors spread like a disease over night.

    And she still doesn’t have a smart phone.

  35. Atta Hanson

    The cyber world is a scary place for children and teenagers. They are exposed to anything on the net. What can we help them.

  36. When I was in school about 20 years ago, around the age of 15-16, there were a couple of girls I knew who attempted suicide and cut themselves – But it was the exception (certainly at my school anyway). I think absent or disinterested parenting is a contributory factor, I also think the kind of music they like consists of low vibration sounds with inappropriate lyrics.

    It’s all fine and well taking away the technology, but it doesn’t solve the problem and it might just push the problem out of sight and behind your back.

  37. It is so sick. Can we actually teach them kids how to actually use Facebook and the likes of it? They put too much personal stuff in it and make themselves open and vulnerable… instead of taking it with a pinch of salt… My kid is going to be at that stage soon so I’m really looking out for such things.
    I sympathize with you on it.
    Take care!

  38. thanks for stopping by and liking my writing, this issue makes me sad and it cannot be ignored even though it is hurtful to think about, it’s good you are writing about it –

  39. vlpfeil

    Thanks for liking my blog saidtheappletothetree! Your post brings up a lot of stuff for me. I think some people assume that all kids who cut themselves are suicide risks. My daughter went thru two to three cutting episodes between the ages of 15 and 19. But she assured me when I voiced such concerns, that altho she was inconsolably miserable and negative a good 33% of those years, she was far too stubborn to ever kill herself. We did get her (and ourselves) counseling, and eventually we got her on antidepressants as a last resort, which effectively built a bridge to get her out of her rut and back onto the road of life. Remembering being 12 years old myself, I believe fewer girls were cutting then as a way of dealing with emotional pain. And fewer girls from basically loving homes were IN that kind of pain. It seems to me it’s the confluence of several contemporary life factors, which have created a ramp up of these and other symptoms… therefore, tricky to preempt.

  40. My 15 year old son has a facebook (mainly to stay in touch with his bio dad) but thank god he never uses it coz I didnt like the stuff being discussed on there by his friends. Because I manage his facebook account, I went in there and opted to cross out the “show news in newsfeed” option so nothing of his friend’s posts show up in his newsfeed unless he goes into the page specifically which he doesnt do either. Thank God. I think sometimes these things like the “cutting” are shown on tv etc and then ppl get the idea to do so and do it, thats just my opinion. But, on another note, at least you were aware of what your daughter was looking at etc.

  41. I think your daughter is really lucky ot have you. As for the self harm, I think it’s a symptom of too rapid change. The suicide rate in 18th century England was so high it was called the English disease. John Updike talks of children needing something to measure themselves against when they are in turmoil as a normal part of growing up. The problem is that our world now has few fixed points. It’s like we are all seasick. That’s why reading history – ie well written, intelligent stuff – helps, as it reminds us that people do survive horrific things, and for many people, things can get better. It’s like being in a storm. find somewhere safe, keep your head down, and it passes. Reading helps, as it gives kids a focus, a chance to calm down. So much internet stuff is jerky, violent, and there is no point to much of it. As Terry Gilliam says, in Hollywood there are no widows and orphans, there is no sense of real stories, real life, of cause and effects. Hope this helps.

  42. Cutting yourself seems quite the awful fashion these days. In the past, perhaps it was throwing yourself in the river (but too many kids can swim these days). Has there been a fundamental change? Hard to know – but it’s certainly odd.

  43. I am wondering how the “cutting” relates to piercing and tattoos? So many are turning up with studded skin and a lot of very artistic and permanent tattoing I am wondering whether they are defying the baby beauty in their quest to be “grown up.” Fads have always been with us, but the body work is new to First World cultures. However, it is not unusual in tribal ritual. Decorating of the body with scars is as old as the hills.

    What happens to these marks when people get old? Stretches and sags?
    And are they the very ones who will be terribly aware of how their skin looks then? Tattoo tucks?

    Does anyone think the cutting is a sign of self-ownership? And what is the root of needing to proclaim self-ownership in such a physical way?

    • I am a 41 yr old cutter, though I have been clean for a year and a half. I think you asked important questions. Closely linked to eating disorders, cutting is definitely a sign of self-ownership. You ask why cutters and other self injurers need to claim self ownership. I equate that with the need to establish control. Roughly 80% of self injurers have been abused, and the vast majority have been sexually abused. So there’s your answer. For women and men who self injure, a common concept is “you can never hurt me as badly as I can hurt myself”. A more complicated scenario is one in which the self injurer has grown to equate the abuse they suffered with love. In a child’s mind, the things done to them by an abuser are supposed to be love, even though the abuse clearly isn’t. This happens when the abuse victim’s mind is so confused that they believe love means physical pain, and they self injure because it feels good. Self injury that starts for reasons like these can continue just because it is an addiction. That’s what happened with me. In the end, none of the reasons mattered because I was addicted and I self injured to get high.
      Thank you for your thoughtful questions. hth

      • Ericka, thank you for your thoughtful and detailed reply, it is a very thorough answer. I hope you are doing OK now. I am a childhood survivor also and I know these phases come and go in waves. I am currently OK, I hope you are too and stay in that state for a long time.

    • There is also some research indicating that inflicting physical pain can reduce mental pain, which may be a factor in this.

  44. Cutting has been around for a very long time actually. It is symptomatic as many stress related mental issues are. It is a way by which to relieve the ‘pressure’. Keep the line of communication open. Yes, it is a scary world but in truth it always has been. Now that we have this thing called the internet it is a lot more visible.
    That is the tough part for young kids. They are witnessing the world in a different manner than we are.
    Always remind your daughter of all the beautiful mysteries that exist. I always did that with my daughter and it helped to counter balance all the shit in this world.

  45. If only the world could be simpler for these poor children. I know that self infliction of pain is not a new thing…. but it certainly seems more prevalent. May be it is because we can communicate easier and read into what other people are doing, and we didn’t have that in the past.
    My older girls have friends that cut…. and atleast one of them ended up in the hospital from infection because of her cutting.
    Alert to all parents: watch for your children covering up. Not just arms but legs too. Be aware. Some of these young ladies that I knew lived in 2 parent households, non abusive (that I could tell), but the one thing that they had in common was that they believed that their parents (especially their moms) didn’t understand them and their “souls were tormented”.
    Just be aware.

  46. In my daugher’s middle school, the students are all given personal lap tops and all of their work and assignments are done on there. These are supposedly filtered and monitored..but not the case. These 11-14 year old kids have open access to many harmful sites including hard core pornography. They simply cannot cope or navigate such things…and their curiosity prevails. So much to deal with as a parent in this world of mega technology.

  47. I know someone personally who told me she is a cutter. She is a grown woman and explained that it takes the pain away, (mental) for the moment. It broke my heart.

  48. What’s amazing to me is how the friend was still updating online as she was looking for the suicidal girl!

  49. I agree – the world seems a more pressurised place than it was when I was 12. I have twins who are about to turn 12 and they seem so aware of things I think are too much of a burden for their young minds. It feels sad and it makes me angry, but I agree also that the best thing we can do is listen and be available.

  50. Diana

    Excellent post! The key things I see that were essential parenting skills:
    1. NOTICING – you were there with your daughter and you paid attention to what she was doing
    2. TAKING HER SERIOUSLY – you listened, really listened and didn’t belittle her or the gravity of the situation
    3. FOLLOWING UP WITH OTHERS – you took action to make others aware of the situation, increasing the circle of protection for your child and her friends
    4.BEING APPROACHABLE – you let your child know she can tell you the truth and you will listen

    In short, you just made her world less frightening!

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