Daughter Talks to Herself

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My daughter is 19, she still lives with me. She loves to watch movies like twighlight and she reads a lot. She can not find a job, but she does go to college, she is in her second year. My husband and I noticed that she is by herself most of the time. No boyfriend or many friends, she only have 1 or 2 friends and they just text once in a while. For many years she takes long showers,she is in the shower for 45 mnts to an hour and she stay in the bathroom for almost 2 hrs.

So, 2 weeks ago I pass the bathroom door and heard some whispering, so I put my ear close to the door and it was her, its sounds like she was having a conversation and argument at the same time with somebody, at times its sounds like she was screaming and then silent. All this is happening in the bathroom, she is by herself and she is making sure nobody hear her. Now, thats not all I noticed that in some ocasions I hear like she is slapping herself on her body, not in her face because once she is out of the bathroom there’s no marks on her face.

I really want to ask her whats going on but I am afraid she is going to say “nothing”. Please I need big help, I don’t know what to do or how to approach this situation. She is 19 and I really want to help her, This is happening everyday since I found out, who knows how long she is been doing this…..Please I need your help, Sincerely, a desperate Mother.

A: You are right to be concerned. It sounds like your daughter has been increasingly isolating herself. Although successful in that she goes to school, her friendship circle is very limited for someone her age. Although it’s not unusual for people to talk through problems or to review their day with themselves in the privacy of the bathroom or their own room, your report that she may be punishing herself by screaming and slapping isn’t typical or okay.

Sometimes our kids can’t tell us what is troubling them so they consciously or unconsciously leave hints around so that we’ll find them. Kids sometimes “accidentally” leave a diary open where we’ll find it or “accidentally” leave a distressing email open on the family computer, for example. It’s their way of sending out a distress signal without having to quite take responsibility for doing so.

I’m guessing your daughter’s lengthy time in the bathroom is something like that. On some level she knows that you will be concerned about a two-hour stay in there.

It’s past time for you to respond to the signal. Find a therapist who specializes in young adults. Ask your doctor for a referral or click on the “Find Help” tab on the PsychCentral homepage. There may also be a behavioral health clinic at her college. Brief the therapist on the phone and ask for some guidance about how to get your daughter to go in. (Sometimes it’s helpful if a parent goes to part of the first session.)

Then, in a loving way, let your daughter know how concerned you are. Tell her that you know that she is upset and that you want to help. Reassure her that she doesn’t deserve to be punished by herself or by anyone else – no matter what. Insist that she see the counselor. Tell her you are willing to go with her. Don’t argue. Don’t get mad. Stay in that loving, concerned place.

Parenting doesn’t end because a child is at the age to start leaving home. We all have to figure out when to let go and when to still pull the “parent card.” In this situation, your daughter is telling you without words that she needs you to be a mom. Please follow through. She sounds like she really needs help.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Nov 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2013). Daughter Talks to Herself. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/11/06/daughter-talks-to-herself/

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