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August 01, 2014 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Mental Health

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Why do I Want Bad Things to Happen to Me?
Question:

Hi, my nickname is D, I'm 14. I don't really know how to begin, so bear with me. I started going to counseling about 11 months ago, because I had a lot of anxiety, I was put on medications, and things have gotten so much better. I've been discovering more and more about myself. Now I consider myself a very strong person. I get good grades, and was bullied at school, but now I am able to ignore it, and it has made me to be even stronger.

I think I'm very mature for my age, and I've always been pretty much ok with who I am. But these past two weeks things have been really bad. I've been wishing bad things upon myself lately. For instance: "I wish I'd lose an eye, I wish I couldn't talk, maybe I'll get a disease, I should become anorexic, if I was raped, I would have something to cry about..." I know it's horrible to want things like that, and it's probably because I want attention or something. Half of me is like "This is horrible, things like that happen to people everyday, and it ruins their lives, and here you are wishing it upon yourself!" But thinking that just makes me feel more guilty, and feel like I need to be punished. I bet it is because I want attention, but I think that that is just part of it.

I feel like I need a place in my mind that I can run away to, and a reason to do it. If something tragic happened, I would have an excuse to lock myself up in my room all day, and to cry, and to not speak to anyone. People say I have a good life, and a good family, but the truth is I hate being around them! People always ask why am I upset, I have nothing to be upset about, and I hate it!

Just tell me what you think, I'll take any advice. Is it really horrible to wish bad things would happen to you? But if something did, or I intentionally made it happen, I would never forgive myself for wanting it to. I feel confused and all tangled up. Just typing this has helped a little.

D, 14-year-old girl

Answer:

Dear D,

You are remarkably mature for your age. Even many adults are unable to do what you have demonstrated in your request for help: You can describe yourself in an objective, positive way, even while you feel that you are bad and horrible. The feelings are awful, but your intelligence tells you that they are not based on fact.

The most important thing I want to say to you is that your problem is not just because you want attention. That doesn't fit my picture of your thoughts at all.

You are feeling awful, terrible, and this need not be dismissed or reduced in importance as 'attention seeking'.

I don't know what medications you are on, but it is quite possible that the bizarre thoughts are not yours at all, but are induced as side effects of the drug you are taking. You need to go to your prescribing physician and report these thoughts.

Actually, drugs don't fix anxiety. They just mask it, and nothing can permanently improve unless you fix the cause through counseling. The technique for that is called 'behavior therapy' or 'cognitive-behavior therapy'. If your helper is not using this method, insist on finding one who is. You have that power, and that right.

D, even if your distressing thoughts are not due to a drug side effect, they are still manageable. You cannot help what thoughts pop into your mind, but you can help what you do about them.

You are already doing this. When you feel like hurting yourself, you argue back. That's excellent, keep doing it. Every time you manage not to give in to a stupid thought, it gets weaker.

Here is one thing that works for many people. I have used it myself. Write a fictional story. It could be a fantasy in which a monster being invades a girl. This thing lives on negative emotions: horror, disgust, and anxiety. It puts thoughts in the girl's head, and is very good at mimicking her exact thought processes, so to her it feels like the thoughts were hers. But they are not. She reacts to them, and the monster eats the emotions, getting stronger all the time.

You show a good ability with language. Put it to use. Write a real scary story, but with a happy ending. I leave that up to you. Give the victim resources that allow her to fight back and win.

In summary, you need a kind of therapy that traces the thoughts you have to inner beliefs you acquired as a little child. This is 'cognitive therapy'. At the same time, you need to make changes in how you react to the world around you. That's 'behavior therapy'.

And D, you are not your thoughts. You are not your impulses. I know you can beat this problem, because you have had the strength to surmount the terrible problem of being bullied. This is proof of your power.

Have a good life,

Bob

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 31 years experience as a psychologist and is registered with the Australian Psychological Society. He practices in Australia. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith".

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