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Am I Reacting to My Past or am I Just Being a Teenager?

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From a teen in the U.S.:  I recently have begun to notice that my behavior has become rather strange. One second I could be happy, then next I could be sad, anxious, paranoid, or angry within an instant. I don’t understand how I feel. I’m assuming this begun at a much younger age than now, such as when I was probably ten or maybe eleven. I went through some sexual abuse as a child for 4-5 years (from the ages of 4-9) before it finally ended. And I’m happy to say that everything and everyone is safe and fine now that the abuser is gone. Since then I have visited a therapist, but it was brief and it was quite some time ago. Possibly 5-6 years ago.  Most of the questions they asked at the therapy office were questions about my abuser for legal reasons; what he did, how it was done, etc. I was probably 9 or ten by then.

Luckily, it did help, and it seemed as if I was getting better until last year. I was constantly breaking down into tears over seemingly nothing, I started to  harm myself through scratching my legs, as an anxious and punishment issue for when I did something wrong or stupid, I was always thinking about what my abuser did to me out of nowhere, I felt angry and hateful, sleeping at night could be difficult, and my head was always jumbled and filled with unwanted thoughts.

This year, things are better though and I haven’t been dealing with this as bad as last year. However, some feelings are still persistent. I want to figure out what’s going on with me. Am I just overreacting about how I feel? Could I possibly still be going through trauma?  Or could there possibly be serious underlying mental issues that may need to be talked about? I’m really sorry for tossing such a strange bag of cabbage (to whoever reads this), but I need some advice, and possibly a point in the right direction if necessary. Thank you, to whoever is reading this, for taking the time to read this.

Am I Reacting to My Past or am I Just Being a Teenager?

Answered by on -


This isn’t a “bag of cabbage.” I’m very glad you wrote. And, no, you are not over-reacting at all. And you are not just “being a teenager.”

Therapy often happens in “chapters.” You may have dealt with the past abuse to the extent you were ready to a number of years ago. It may be that now, as a teen when it is normal to start thinking about your sexuality, that issues around the abuse have been re-triggered. I very much suspect this is the case, especially since you thought about the abuser when you were self-harming.

I strongly encourage you to contact the therapist you saw before if you can. If not, a new therapist will be able to review your history and its possible significance now. Please follow through. You deserve to be able to move past what happened and to be comfortable in your body.

I wish you well.

Dr. Marie

Am I Reacting to My Past or am I Just Being a Teenager?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

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. (2019). Am I Reacting to My Past or am I Just Being a Teenager?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 1 Mar 2019 (Originally: 2 Mar 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 1 Mar 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.