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15 years old and hurting

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I know that I’m young, and I know that young people generally don’t have much to worry about in the grand scheme of things but, I think I’m a different to the general majority of teenagers. I just want to make sure that this will be taken seriously because whenever I have tried to talk to my mum about it she palms it off as ‘hormones’.

I’m very tall for my age – 6″0, and I weigh around 80kgs (176 pounds). I think I’m hiding in my weight. I’m scared of physical contact. I don’t know why it is, but the idea of someone touching me sexually or just in a friendly way scares me deeply. Very few people can be affectionate towards me, being close family members and a couple of close friends.

I am scared of a very large amount of things, and a few of them have developed into very severe phobias. My phobias are: Arachnophobia (currently seeing psychologist about it), needles, swimming and the ocean.

My fears are: paddlepop sticks, people touching my neck (in particular to the rest of my body), as I said before, psychical contact, amongst other things.

Between the ages of 12 and 14 I was self harming very regularly and often thinking and contemplating suicide, partly due to the fact my father confessed his drug addiction to me, stole money off me for the addiction, and left our city to go live on the other side of the country. Recently he moved to England. I speak to him once or twice every 3-4 months. I have recently started thinking about self harm again.

My mother and father divorced when I was 3, which left my mother very depressed. Just tonight she admitted to me that she still is very depressed and it’s my fault (she didn’t use that wording, but that was the general gist of it).

I have huge self esteem issues. I try to avoid looking in mirrors and usually mask myself in makeup to hide my face as much as possible. I quite honestly do not believe I have any assets whatsoever, and I suppose the media pumping ‘thin is beautiful’ into me constantly is not helping anything along.
I started putting on weight when, at 9 years old, my father got a new ‘serious’ girlfriend, and always put her children over my brother and I (I think it was in order to please her).

I don’t show how I really am to everyone I know. I sort of put on this happy act, that makes me seem very optimistic and bouncy. I usually don’t let people close enough so that they can see through it. When I’m not around people I’m depressed as all hell.

And, I think that’s pretty much everything. I really need to know if there are things wrong with me. I have always felt as though I should seek help but have not been game enough to talk to my mother or close family members about it. I guess it’s because I didn’t want to harm my mother even more. Do I have any mental problems that I need to visit a psychologist for? Or have I just blown my problems way out of proportion?

Thankyou so much, I hope it wasn’t too long and boring for you,

15 years old and hurting

Answered by on -


First of all: You are not boring me. You did a good job describing what is troubling you. I need that information if I’m to help you.

Some of your concerns are very, very normal. Teens generally don’t like to stand out or be different. Teens generally have self-confidence issues. Many teens use makeup to hide their “flaws” and clothes that are too big or baggy to hide their developing bodies. Many teens are scared of sex – and then embarrassed that they’re scared. Lots of people (adults as well as teens) only want people who they know love them to touch them. So, in many ways, you are like lots of people your age.

On top of all the usual stuff, though, you have some not so usual, and painful, aspects to your life. You have a father who has abandoned his family at least twice and who betrayed your trust. Your mother is depressed. And you feel blamed instead of supported by your mom. No wonder you are upset! This is more stress than most adults can handle – never mind someone who is 15!

Even though I only know you from your letter, I see strengths in you that you don’t give yourself credit for. You are thoughtful, articulate, and sensitive. In spite of all your own burdens, you don’t want to burden your mother more. You have learned how to cope and how to act as if things are okay, even when they’re not. You realized you need some help and asked for it. These are the attributes of a resilient person. Now we have to help you tap into those strengths so that you can build a better life for yourself.

My biggest concern for you is your urge to hurt yourself. I don’t know if this is a way that you distract yourself from emotional pain or if it is a way you “punish” yourself for something or if there is another reason. I do know that you don’t deserve the punishment and you do deserve a whole lot more love and support than you are getting from your parents.

Sadly, not everyone gets the parents they deserve. When that happens, it’s important to find other mentors and older friends who can give you what your parents can’t. Some people find solace in a higher power or nature as well.

I’m surprised the psychologist who is treating you for a phobia hasn’t asked about the rest of your life. Maybe she has and you just haven’t shared. Since you already know her, maybe she’s a good person to look to for additional help. If you are shy about pouring out all your troubles to her, you could just hand her this correspondence. She already knows you are a sensitive person who is anxious about many things. It’s not going to shock her or surprise her that there are things in your life to be anxious about.

If you don’t feel you have a good connection with your psychologist, you could talk to your school counselor about how to find a therapist to help you.

You made an important start by writing. Please follow through and get yourself the support you need.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

15 years old and hurting

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). 15 years old and hurting. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 21, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.