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Please teach me how to help my 12 year old son.
Hello - i'm hoping you can give me some advice on how to help my 12 year old son. A bit of history - Ben is super smart and has always been slightly sensory sensitive if that makes sense? He has learned to cope with many of his quirks but is still an anxious kid who won't talk about his anxiety. The picking started with mosquitoes several years ago. He gets bitten like crazy and we live in an area of Ontario Canada that is mosquito heaven so there is no escaping them, even with high deet bug spray. During the winter his scabs get much better but he still always has a t least a couple that he works on regularly. Right now things are the worst they have ever been. he has literally dozens and dozens of open wounds on his arms and legs. We are doing the best we can to keep them clean, we polysporin and bandaid them ever night but he won't wear the bandaids to school. I'm curious as to why he thinks the bandaids are more embarrassing than the scabs? He generally doesn't seem to be embarrassed by the scabs most of the time unless someone calls attention to them - he seems comfortable in shorts and t-shirts. We make sure he cuts his nails regularly too. He has an amazing immune system and I think that's the only thing that has saved him from major infection but they are very often sore and red and somewhat swollen and it scares the hell out of me. I have a history of depression and was a nail biter for my entire life up until 10 years ago which now that I think about it is when i began taking the antidepressants I will probably be on for the rest of my life. Several members of my immediate and extended family have also dealt with anxiety depression and alcoholism. What can I do to help Ben? This past weekend my husbands father made a deal with him that if all his scabs were gone by the end of july that he would give him $100 and Ben was so excited and very optomistic that he could do it (he wants an ipod!) and he did very well for 2 days but we are now right back to square one again if not worse than ever. I would very much appreciate any advice you could give us. I dread the beginnin of puberty so much as both my husband's father and brother had severe acne as teens and I am terrified of Ben having to deal with acne on top of mosquito bites!
June 27, 2011
Just wanted to clarify about my comment about him being more embarrassed by the bandaids than the scabs. I did not mention this because I want him to be embarrassed - we would never do anything to make him feel shame about this. I'm just curious because I think maybe he is in a sort of denial that the scabs can be seen by others. Does that make any sense?
June 28, 2011
Hi! Now, I'm definitely no professional, but I've done my reading in dysfunctional behavior (specifically codependency). I'll try my best at interpretation and giving advice................. Your story is hauntingly familiar to mine. I'm almost 21 years old (female), and Ben's situation seems familiar with mine. My mother is similar to you as well. I don't have depression currently, but I'm almost sure I have an anxiety problem. I was a lot similar to Ben when I was his age, I didn't want to wear bandaids and I haven't once had an infection! I never thought to think about the bandaids, but I personally had a problem (I think) because in my mind, bandaids draw more attention. It's less natural and appears like I'm trying to hide something. Having dozens of bandaids on my legs and going to school WOULD be more embarrassing to me if I was 12. In fact, I often don't wear bandaids still. This is just my guess as to why... and of course, Ben may have different reasons. Maybe they itch? Maybe the scabs are equally as embarrassing but he likes the natural feel of just having nothing on (might be from perfectionism/slight signs of OCD)............... Let me just say that it is wonderful of you to try and intervene more than just saying, "Stop that." My parents kept saying that to me and IT NEVER WORKS. Plus, shame is one of the worst feelings anyone can feel, especially children. Be careful in how you address his problem. And you're smart to start before acne hits. Of course, he may be better for the years he has left before puberty and acne will RESTART the problem. Recovering from picking is a lot like recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction. Picking IS an addiction. One pick after years of no picking can restart the problem. I think it's an addiction because picking causes slight, manageable pain and the body releases endorphins to create a pleasant "recovery" feeling. Perhaps picking is like a slight high. Also, Make sure to teach him proper hygiene like washing his face, showers, etc to keep acne down. Kids don't just learn proper care by themselves............ Now, looking back, I wish my parents wouldn't have ignored my problem. My mom bites her nails AND picks scabs, but my dad does none of it. Seeing my mom bite her nails or pick actually triggers me to pick!! It's almost like seeing someone else release anxiety makes me want to join in. So- if you can, try and hide or stop your nail biting, especially in front of your son. It might be a trigger for him to pick like it is for me........... I also wish my parents would have supported me in my failures and successes. No human is perfect, so picking after 2 days of no picking is normal. Children need to know they have worth in order to build self esteem. I'm not sure how your son is treated at school for his problem, but taunting may severely affect him. Having APPROPRIATE self esteem is essential (not being too cocky and not feeling worthless). Good self esteem is a great foundation for recovery................. If Ben is like me, 2 days is usually when I slip up as well. For me, the scabs are extremely obvious, raised, itchy and the largest bump in the cycle of healing. Like Ben, my skin is sensitive and I can feel the littlest things. When a scab is 2 days old, it sticks out like a sore thumb on the skin. When I run my hands across my skin and feel a 2 day old scab, it feels out of place. Almost like my skin isn't smooth, so to make it smooth and "perfect", I pick the scab. The skin is then smooth and I move on to explore the rest of my skin to make it "perfect". In my opinion, this thinking is natural instinct on overdrive. It's natural to push dirt, ticks and bumps off of the skin to prevent contamination or disease. Just a theory of mine. So, the "perfect/smooth skin" impulse I have (and possibly your son has, too) maybe a sign of OCD. It also involves anxiety and perfectionism too, in my opinion.................... I'm not sure how in touch Ben is with his feelings or past. He needs to realize why what he's doing is bad to his health and why he does it in the first place! It's pointless to undergo treatment and not realize why you need it, so he needs to be on board to want to get better. You and him should find the cause of the problem. It might be imbalance with hormones, OCD, anxiety, etc...................... Encouragement for $100 to stop is one way to stop, but like most people, the willpower and control over his habit isn't strong enough. It's exciting to undergo these challenges, but failing them can feel horrible, so provide support. I may not suggest continuing these "deals" because he may stop when you offer 1000... but 2 years later, then what? It's good for the short term, but for the long term, these challenges almost never benefit........................... Make sure you listen to him. Listen to his feelings and don't ever say they're "wrong". He'll learn to never admit his feelings again and these leads to problems. Listen to how he feels, thinks and think to yourself what you can do to help or guide him to recovery............................ If it appears like anxiety or mild OCD is the source of the problem, adult treatment is: medication or treatment at a facility. The fact that he's 12 and not an adult is the obvious problem with this treatment..................... So, in conclusion, I would suggest you and him (and maybe more family members!) go to counseling. A counselor can analyze your situation FAR better than I and they've probably solved many issues for years. I'm sure some counselors even specialize in this area because a lot of people have it. Honestly, I wish I wouldn't have ignored my problem when I was 12, and I wish I could have talked about it to a professional. A professional can suggest treatment for him and his environment. Also, picking is usually a surface problem from something much deeper (something a counselor can find and analyze). In my opinion, going to a professional is the best and most effective treatment to ANY dysfunctional behavior or thoughts........................... I've written a short story for you, I hope you find it helpful!!! :)
July 01, 2011
Hi - I've posted on some of the other topics here, so you'll see more of my story there if interested. My 14 yr old son, also very smart and a great kid, suffers from anxiety and OCD. He occasionally picks at his skin, feet, scabs, etc. Not too bad, but you never know if it will get worse. His biggest OCD issue now is the hand-washing. It has lingered despite being on Zoloft. Prior to the Zoloft we tried therapy which was unsuccessful for him, but it does work for a lot of people. He used to have a multitude of OCD behaviors that were severely disrupting his life. He is so much better now thanks to the medication. I know it's not for everyone and provides varying levels of results, but just letting you know it worked well for him and he has no side effects to speak of. Please feel free to ask me more about my son if you like. Good luck.