Just a Phase?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I’m pretty sure this is just a phase. Look, I’m only 13. I don’t think this is even important enough to mention to my parents. For the past 4-5 years all I’ve been thinking about is suicide. I have been tempted to overdose and have cut my legs on purpose with scissors. I get panic attacks, horrible headaches, stomach aches, I went from 96 lbs. to about 87 lbs., I have the most trouble getting to sleep (when I do – I usually sleep way too much; longest time was about 14 hours), I have been really anti-social and hardly have any friends, my self-esteem is so low whenever I look in the mirror I want to rip my skin off, I cry more than I smile, and I find myself forgetting about a lot. I can’t even pay attention in school because I just feel so exhausted.

I just wanted to make sure if this is right. Is this just a teenage phase or should I really do something? Whenever I ask other people they just say it will go away soon. I’m so sick of hearing that, I can’t take it anymore. I’m so lonely and hurt.

A. I would consider what you have described to be very serious. I do not think that you are going through a phase. You’re dealing with suicidal thoughts, self-harm, a possible eating disorder, panic attacks and very low self-esteem. I do believe help from a mental health professional is required.

There are some teenagers who feel like they want to die. Perhaps they have had a bad day, or a bad week, or something went wrong at school and it made them feel like they didn’t want to live anymore. That is different from what you seem to be experiencing. You have had suicidal thoughts for at least five years. In addition, you have contemplated the way in which you might attempt to end your life. That is a very serious matter.

Your anxiety and low self-esteem are making it difficult for you function on a daily basis. As you said, you cannot pay attention in school nor are you able to sleep well. It must be difficult to struggle with so many issues in isolation.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that you are mentally ill. I believe you are having difficulty with several issues in your life and you don’t know how to handle them. It’s not your fault. You have no guidance or outside assistance. You need someone to teach you the process of problem solving as well as how to deal with your emotions. You need someone to show you the way. That’s why therapy could be very beneficial to you. In therapy, you could learn alternative ways to deal with your problems. When you’re able to do this then you will feel better. You’ll have a better grip on how to handle your problems and that will make you feel more competent and will likely increase your self-esteem.

I would strongly suggest that you speak with your parents. They need to know that you are experiencing problems so they can find you the proper help. You need and deserve help. Be honest with them. Tell them about your suicidal thoughts and the other issues that you have. Don’t hold anything back. I know it may be difficult to reveal how you’re feeling to your parents. Even if it’s difficult it is important that you go do it. Your parents need to know the whole truth. It will help them to help you.

Thank you for your question. If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to write back. I wish you well.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Jan 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). Just a Phase?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/01/09/just-a-phase/