Generally speaking, many teens are experiencing the same types of problems you are (with a few exceptions, which I’ll get to below). That’s because the teenage years are very challenging. It’s time when you’re getting to know yourself, who you are, what your likes and dislikes are, and so forth. It’s a very confusing time in one’s life. To say that the teenage years are difficult would be an understatement.
In developmental psychological theory, being confused about one’s identity in one’s youth is considered a normal stage of human development. According to Erik Erikson’s psychosocial developmental theory, you may be experiencing “identity versus identity confusion.” This stage generally occurs in one’s high school years. At this stage in life, individuals are attempting to find their own identity. This includes trying many new things to learn what one likes. During this time, individuals are attempting to determine who they are, what they like, who they want to be, etc. The ultimate goal for this stage is for an individual to find their own identities and to eventually become independent thinkers. If an individual is unsuccessful at this stage, they will experience “role confusion.” If they are successful, they will have more clarity about their identity, their likes and dislikes, and so forth.
Given your age, you may be experiencing identity versus identity confusion. If so, that would be normal for this stage in your life.
You mentioned that you think of yourself as being ‘different’ but you didn’t explain how. Generally speaking, every person has their own unique personality. You are likely very different from other people and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Normal is relative.
You mentioned that you engage in self-harm and had considered suicide. Though many teenagers have engaged in self-harm and have suicidal thoughts, it is not the norm. This would suggest that something is wrong. They are typically indicators of unhappiness and depression. The key to knowing how to cure these problems is determining the underlying motivations. This is best done in counseling.
You asked several specific questions including: (1) is this a normal thing for teens to do? (2) Am I attention seeking? (3) Or am I just being daft?
The answers to those are questions are addressed below.
1) To some extent, some of what you’re experiencing may be “normal,” as explained earlier, however, cutting and suicidal ideation are abnormal and a sign that something may be wrong.
2) No, you’re not attention-seeking. You simply are acknowledging a potential problem and attempting to describe it. If you’re not feeling mentally well, it’s good to acknowledge it and to seek help for it.
3) You are not being daft. You’re being responsible. It’s a shame that your parents believe you are being “ludicrous” but they may simply not know how to help you.
You mentioned having tried cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and it wasn’t for you. CBT is one of the most effective therapeutic treatments in existence. Perhaps you need a different therapist. They’re not all the same. Some are certainly better than others. You may want to try a different therapist. You shouldn’t stop trying to find good help.
You might also ask whether dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is available at the CAHMS. DBT is effective for people with certain types of problems and disorders, including borderline personality disorder, individuals who engage in self-harm, among others. It’s not uncommon for therapists who know CBT to also know DBT. You might inquire about whether DBT is available and whether or not it’s appropriate for you. I wish you the best of luck. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle