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Dear Dish-It: My Friend Cuts Herself ... & Lies About It

Dear Dish-It,


My friend used to lie about little things like she could play guitar hero on expert when she couldn't even play easy, and what jean size she is. Now she's lying about things me and my other friend are getting concerned about. She said at a sleepover that she cuts herself with glass, and we didn't believe her, so we checked on the back of her hands and there were a few scars. Then she said she was kidding - but we don't like her kidding about serious things. Later she told us that she cuts again. Again we checked her hands; there were more scars. Each time we tell her to stop, she says it was her cat. But her mom told us they don't have a cat! I'm getting scared that she might cut too deep or try to kill herself or something.


......


Dear ......,


It can be hard to understand why a friend might injure herself on purpose. Cutting - using a sharp object to cut your own skin on purpose until it bleeds - is a form of self-injury. Some people turn to this behavior when they have problems or painful feelings and haven't found another way to cope or get relief. Most of the time, people who cut themselves don't talk about it or let others know they’re doing it. But sometimes they confide in a friend. Sometimes a friend might find out in another way. I'm not sure whether or not your friend is lying, but since she told you she cuts herself, you need to take that seriously. Here is some more information about cutting that may help you help your friend.


Your Feelings

It can be upsetting to learn that a friend has been cutting. You might feel confused or scared. You may feel sad or sorry that your friend is hurting herself in this way. You might even be mad - or feel like your friend has been hiding something from you. You might wonder what to say, whether to say anything at all, or if there is anything you can do to help a friend who cuts. It can help you to know more about cutting, why some people do it, and how they can stop. Sharing this information with your friend can be a caring act, and it might help her take the first step toward healing.


Understanding why a friend may be cutting can help you be supportive. But what can you actually do to help your friend stop? The first thing is to be realistic about what you can achieve: as with any damaging behavior, some people just may not be ready to acknowledge the problem and stop. So don't put too much pressure on yourself - your friend's problem could be a longstanding one that requires help from a professional therapist or counselor. Therapists who specialize in treating adolescents often are experienced in working with people who self-injure and can also help with other issues or emotional pain they might have.


How To Help

Here are some things that you can try to help a friend who cuts:

  • Talk about it: You've asked about the cuts and scratches - and maybe your friend changed the subject. Try again. Let your friend know that you won't judge and that you want to help if you can. If your friend still won't talk about it, just let her know the offer stands and you are open to talking anytime. Sometimes it helps to let a friend know that you care. Still, even though you do your best, your friend might not want to talk.
  • Tell someone: If your friend asks you to keep the cutting a secret, say that you aren't sure you can because you care. Tell your friend that she deserves to feel better. Then tell an adult in a position to help, like your parents, a school psychologist or counselor, or a teacher or coach your friend is close to. Getting treatment may help your friend overcome the problem. Your friend may be mad at you at first. But studies show that 90% of those who self-injure are able to stop within a year of beginning treatment.
  • Help your friend find resources: Try to help your friend find someone to talk to and a place to get treatment. There are also some good books and online support groups for teens who self-injure. Be careful, though: although some websites offer useful suggestions about how to resist the urge to cut, the stories or pictures some people send in may actually trigger the urge to cut in those who read or see them. And some sites promote a sense of sisterhood or solidarity that might interfere with a person's getting help. There's nothing cool about cutting - beware of people or websites that suggest there is!
  • Help your friend find alternatives to cutting: Some people find that the urge to self-injure passes if they squeeze an ice cube in their hand really hard, draw with a red marker on the body part they feel like cutting, take a walk with a friend (you!), rip up old newspapers, play loud music and dance, or find another distraction or outlet for their feelings. These strategies don't take the place of getting professional counseling, but they can help in the short run.
  • Acknowledge your friend's pain: Let friends who cut know that you get what they're going through by saying things like, "Your feelings must just overwhelm you sometimes. You've been through a lot - no wonder you hurt. I want to help you find a way to cope that won't hurt you anymore." Try to avoid statements that send the message you don't take your friend's pain seriously (such as "But you've got such a great life" or "Things aren't that bad," which can feel dismissive to a person who cuts).
  • Be a good role model: Everyone experiences painful emotions like hurt, anger, loss, disappointment, guilt, or sadness. These emotions are part of being human. Coping with strong emotions - instead of dwelling on them and continuing to feel bad - involves a few key skills, like knowing how to calm yourself down when you're upset, putting feelings into words, and working out solutions to everyday problems. Be the kind of person who can do this and your friend will learn from you.

What if I Try to Help & She Says No?

It's often hard to help a friend who cuts. You may not see changes overnight, if at all. Some people aren't ready to face what they're going through - and you can't blame yourself for that. Some people might not be ready to ask for or receive help with their troubles. You can encourage a friend to get help, but your friend might not open to the idea, at least not right away. You might need to be patient. A friend could need time to think about what you've said.


People react in different ways when someone tries to help. But don't be afraid to try to help a friend. Sometimes your honest concern is just what a person needs. By reaching out, you might just help someone take the first step toward healing. Sometimes when you try to help, your friend might be angry or say you don't understand. Or the friend might really appreciate that you care but still not be ready to accept help.


It's natural to feel helpless, worried, sad, or upset - especially if you feel you're the only one who knows what a friend is going through. Sometimes it helps to confide in an adult you trust about the situation. It can be really hard when a friend just won't let you help. But don't take on the burden as your own or feel responsible for someone else's behavior. Sometimes even the truest friend may need to take a break from an intense situation. Be sure to care for yourself and don't allow yourself to be drained or pulled down by your friend's situation.


For more help or info on cutting, check out S.A.F.E. Alternatives (Self-Abuse Finally Ends) at www.selfinjury.com, or call their toll-free line at 1-800-DONT-CUT (1-800-366-8288).


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Poll

Do You Know Someone Who Cuts?

  • Yeah, one of my friends cuts herself/himself.
  • I have had issues with cutting.
  • I don't know anyone personally, but I've heard of people who do it.
  • No, I don't know anyone who cuts.

Dear Dish-It In The Forums

Wonderfulcalico
My parents have always been aggressive and abusive and I only just noticed it a couple months ago. Over time they've gotten worse (specifically my mother). Whenever she gets mad she'll yell at us and if she gets mad enough she'll hit and push us around. Whoever we get into arguments it's always one- sided and she always wins, even if she knows she is wrong. An argument we had not to long ago was about me not taking care of myself. She looked at my hair and started to touch it and told me "Your hair isn't soft why is it so dry, it's probably because you aren't taking care of your hair." Then she goes on to tell me that she's going to cut it and all of this other stuff when she knows I'm conscious about me looking like a boy ( Used to get called a boy for having short hair). As the argument goes on, I start to tell her things that she knows she is wrong about. She proceeds to yell at me then grabs me by the face and say "If you don't lower your tone and listen to what I'm saying I'm going to knock you in the head." Then she goes on to tell me she remembers nothing I was saying and that it's a lie. She also hit me when I didn't clean the laundry room correctly and whenever she gets fed up. I'm constantly having to watch what I say and do, because I'm scared that I'm going to end up hurt. She also likes to degrade me and tell how bad I'm doing. She's said plenty of thing like when I didn't have my bed covers tucked in she yelled at me and hit me and I said "Do you expect me to just stand here and take this", and she replied saying "That's what you are supposed to do you are the child and I am the adult, you take whatever I do until I'm done." Another time is when I had my band concert and I had to pick out the right attire. When we went shopping to get the clothing I chose slacks when she liked a skirt better, we went on to fight in the store and she bought the slacks. When we got home she said to me that real girls wear skirts and dresses and boys wear slacks and pants. This hurt me because she knows I have a past with people telling me I look like a boy etc. Another time I started to sleep on the floor, because I was practicing a minimalist life. When I left my pillows on the floor she found it and questioned me on why they were there. I told her it fell of my bed when really I left it there. Later when I told my dad, he told her and she got mad because I was getting cat hair on my pillows. She then proceeded to ask why I lied and I told her sometimes lying is better then the truth (I knew she would get mad that I was sleeping on the floor so I lied) then she told me that I was never going to have a relationship, a job, or friends ( This hurt me because I don't have friends now). She's also said that I don't take care of my body because I ate two sweets in one day which lead her to banning me from Doritos and now I have to ask to get chips and any other snack. She's told me I don't take care of my teeth because I have yellow spots from using whitening toothpaste with braces on. She's told me I don't take care of my hair so I can't wash it or do any hair style or then a bun. She had lead me to starving myself (Unless she makes me eat) and cutting myself. I've just stopped caring, because what ever I do is always wrong. I never get a choice in my activities, she controls my life in fact she me just in a different body. But what is even worse is that she's turning my dad into her. Now I have a scheduled time to eat breakfast and lunch, and to go onto my electronics. I feel like I'm in a prison with my parents constantly watching over me, in fact yesterday when I was pouring my milk my mom got out a measuring cup and poured my milk into the measuring cup and said "Why isn't this a full cup" and I replied saying "Because I don't measure my milk." Then she got angry at me. There's so much I could say about her, but I'll stop. Anyways my father is always sarcastic and he doesn't realize how much it hurts me. Today I was cleaning out my bag for next school year and my dad came in and said, "Wow, you aren't even dress yet and I had to come up here to tell you how sad." Just little things like that hurt me. My little sister got mad at me last week for sitting in a certain area and she said " Why are you sitting there," and I didn't reply because I didn't want to speak to her and she then said, "Probably because you are too stupid to answer." I wanted to break down crying then and there, but I kept it in. I've limited my talking to her, because all she does is break me down. Like when there was a Proactive commercial and she said, "Ha, you need that." That hurt me because just the other my mom was telling me how I don't take care of my face and that's why I have acne. My older sister and I barely talk, because whenever I try to talk to her she's mad for what ever reason and when my parents were talking about hitting my sister she was in the corner laughing. My cat Preston is very young and I got hi,abo a year ago. I get very sad and often cry, because I've seen him turn out scared and aggressive just like me because he's been through what I have. One time he pooped in a clothes basket (It's right next to his litter box) my mom grabbed him by the neck and hit him while she smothered his face in his poop, all while yelling at him. I was going to call the Animal Protective Services, but I got too scared and I realized how lonely I would be. Please help me I'm not sure what to do anymore. Also sorry for the very long post!
reply 3 days
Error101
Error101 posted in Family Issues:
Dear Kkmr324, I hope you get to feeling better as time goes on.  It does get better but like you said you can't actually get over it.  Losing someone to cancer is awful and I have never lost a friend and I hope I never will and I am so sorry that you did, but I have lost family to cancer and it is horrible.  I hope your okay. :(
reply 4 days
Kkrmr324
Kkrmr324 posted in Family Issues:
A few months ago,my friend Kendall died of cancer. It was really hard to "get over it"; because really you dont just get over it. One thing i did was find a bunch of pictures of me and Kendall and remembered all the fun we had together. And it helped! I still miss her, but good friends and family helped with that.
reply 7 days
Kkrmr324
Kkrmr324 posted in Family Issues:
A few months ago,my friend Kendall died of cancer. It was really hard to "get over it"; because really you dont just get over it. One thing i did was find a bunch of pictures of me and Kendall and remembered all the fun we had together. And it helped! I still miss her, but good friends and family helped with that.
reply 7 days
Tennis123
why are you allowing that to control your happiness? why can't you have true happiness instead of chasing some dream for momentary satisfaction? You're 12. This is when your core beliefs, values, and outlooks on life start. Don't mess it up choosing to be sad over something like that.
reply 7 days