The dual diagnosis of social media addiction and self-harm – it’s a problem that’s taken off in the 21st century. Teenage girls and young women are particularly affected, but boys, men and transgender people suffer too. Often parents don’t know where to get help with this complex condition.
In this blog, we’ll look at what parents go through when their daughter self-harms. We’ll also look at how social media addiction can fuel self-harm and vice versa. Regarding treatment for a dual diagnosis, we’ll explain why getting a thorough assessment for your daughter is essential before deciding on a treatment programme or plan. Please call Addiction Helper to start the recovery process today.
Self-Harm in the Family
For parents, it can be terrifying to discover your daughter is self-harming. It’s common to feel angry, confused, sad and overwhelmed. Around 10% of young people self-harm but you may still feel completely isolated. Or you might worry what other family members of friend think if they find out. Often, parents feel frustrated with the process of accessing specialist help for their daughter – it can be slow to get a referral via the GP, for example, especially in the early stages of the illness.
If your daughter cuts herself, she will have visible wounds or scars that you may have seen. This is understandably very distressing for you. You want your daughter to stop harming herself. You may have tried to adapt your home environment, removing or hiding sharp items. You may have pleaded with her to stop cutting herself or become angry when she hurts herself again. Parents often say they feel very powerless in this situation – like nothing they do makes any difference.
Your daughter may self-harm in other ways – such as picking her skin, biting herself, pulling out her hair, punching hard objects, hitting or burning herself or purposely self-poisoning. In these cases, her physical scars will vary, or they may not be visible at all. Even with cutting, people who self-harm can be very adept at hiding their scars.
Mentally, your daughter will be under extreme pressure. This is normally the first thing that parents notice when their daughter becomes unwell. She’s up and down, withdrawn, angry or depressed. She may be so anxious that she can no longer go to school, college, university or work. If you still live with your daughter, you will be aware of these changes in mood. It can be really difficult to talk about what’s going on, however – even when parents have close relationships with their daughter.
It’s likely you’re suffering stress or anxiety yourself, trying to cope with your daughter’s illness. The burden of care is very high for parents in this situation. There are positive things you can do to create your support network, to help you at this difficult time.
Addiction Helper is here to support you. We can advise you on addiction treatment in the UK and abroad. If you can’t afford private treatment, then there are free services and voluntary groups you can turn to for support. Please get in touch as soon as you can – even if your daughter is still unwilling to acknowledge her illness.
How Are Social Media Addiction and Self-Harm Connected?
Social media addiction is the compulsive use of social media websites or apps. Although social media addicts have positive experiences online, addiction of any kind is progressively destructive. Social media addiction is increasingly linked to anxiety, depression and low self-esteem in young people. Without support for mental illness and addiction, this can progress to self-harm.
Some social media users post content about self-harming thoughts or behaviours, including pictures of wounds or scars. Although disturbing for most people, your daughter may seek out this content, attempting to make sense of her distress. She may want to connect with people in a similar situation, increasing her dependence on social media. She may also encourage others to self-harm, presenting the behaviour as something that relieves her mental suffering. Although some social media companies like Instagram now ask people who search for self-harm content if they need help, it’s still easy to view the material online.
Your daughter may soon feel she has to be ever-present on social media, checking her profiles many times each day, even during the night. She gets frequent urges to post her content. She gets a thrill or relief from notifications, messages, likes or comments. She may also feel extremely disappointment or upset at negative reactions or no reactions at all. If she does have periods where she can’t use social media, she’ll find it hard to switch off. This escalation of addiction can sometimes lead to social media addicts posting more extreme, graphic or shocking content.
Alternatively, your daughter may be invisible online or using an anonymous profile. This way she can easily hide what’s going on in her life, keeping the secret of her addiction and mental illness. She might post content but in ways which no-one can identify her. Or she might craft an image online of the character or person she wants to be. This kind of activity creates layers of separation between her real identity and her online identity, which can make her illness worse.
There are also stalking behaviours on social media – obsessively following other people online. This could be wealthy celebrities or a friend from school. It could also be other young people struggling with social media addiction and self-harm. In doing this, your daughter may be exposed to frequent ideas and images, which feed into her addictive behaviours.
For example, your daughter may see edited images of another person’s life. Your daughter feels sad or inadequate – even if the content she sees isn’t based in reality. With active addiction and mental illness, it’s often harder for people to distinguish reality from false perceptions. So your daughter may know that a wealthy celebrity Photoshops all their images – altering their body shape, features or skin tone. But still, your daughter longs to have a physical body that compares to their edited pictures. This unattainable ideal can set her up for low self-esteem and self-harm.
Assessment and Treatment for Social Media Addiction and Self-Harm
A thorough assessment by Addiction Helper will identify the fullest picture of your daughter’s mental and physical health so that the best treatment can be identified for her. While it’s not always possible to identify everything that’s going on for your daughter at the assessment stage, it’s vital to speak to an advisor who understands the complexities of dual diagnosis. Alongside social media addiction and self-harm, your daughter have other needs too – such as a body image disorder, other addictions or past trauma.
Regarding treatment, a dual diagnosis such as social media addiction and self-harm is often more complex. Your daughter may require medications for a diagnosed mental health condition, for example. Or she may have already spent time in the hospital and reacted badly to the experience. It’s essential that your daughter receives highly personalised care, which takes into account her full history and responds sensitively to her needs.
Recovery from addiction and co-occurring mental illness is possible. Most people who self-harm can and do fully recover. The earlier you intervene, the better the outcomes. That said, it sometimes takes several attempts to get the right help for your daughter from professionals who are skilled in treating dual diagnoses. Your daughter will also benefit from being part of a community of recovering peers, who encourage and support her.
Addiction Helper speaks to parents every day about interventions, rehab, trauma therapy, outpatient counselling and longer-term support for recovering addicts with a dual diagnosis. We can advise on treatment programmes that offer support and therapy for families too. Please contact us to discuss your daughter’s illness in confidence.