From relationship abuse to peer pressure to drink, teen girls are dealing with more than they can handle. Dr. Robin Smith has some answers.
Most teen girls have come face-to-face with "the popular girls" or the powerful clique at their school—or they might be a part of one.
Dr. Smith says that when teen girls act out their emotions on other girls, it's a sign they are insecure with themselves—more so than the girls they tease.
"No one is saying to the girls who are teasing, 'What is it that's happening with you that you feel so badly about yourself that you would put someone down?'" Dr. Smith says. "If I feel good about myself, I don't need to be teasing you about what you look like or you don't have the right sneakers or your parents don't have the right job. That comes from a place where the reason I feel good about me is simply because I can put somebody else down. That is insecurity at its core."
It is now estimated that one in four teenage girls has been hit by a guy on date. And most do not let anyone know about it. Dr. Smith addressed 17-year-old Kristin, who says that her boyfriend had abused her multiple times.
"A lot of times we check out from thinking," Dr. Smith says. "And so if you were to really look at all of his behavior and think about it, it would be hard to say that's loving behavior. So what do you do? You kind of go numb. You kind of stop knowing what you know. You kind of stop feeling what you feel. So in one way, when you talk about wanting to save him, I'm thinking, 'Save him from what?' … You can't save him. You're at risk. He seems to be doing okay. It's your self-esteem that's at risk."
A few of the teen girls on the show admitted to drinking—and drinking so much that they black out.
"I call it dead girl walking syndrome, which means you're not dead yet, but you're killing yourself off," Dr. Smith says. "Slowly each time you black out, you're killing off possibilities. You're killing off all that you want to be. You're scared that maybe you can't do it. 'So I'm gonna check out temporarily.' And do you know what's even more dangerous? Every time you drink, you've got to drink more because the hunger gets bigger and deeper and wider. …
"… [One of the teens] just said, 'I do this so I can have control.' I thought, control? You're out of control. What an illusion. What a lie. You're doing something, saying that this gives you control, and the moment you start doing it, you've given your mind and body away. You're subjecting yourself to so much."
Cutting and Emotions
Some teen girls are turning to the unthinkable to express their hurt and frustration with the issues they face. Dr. Smith says they are cutting themselves for two reasons: to outwardly express how badly they are feeling on the inside, and to re-direct the pain of the self-hate they are feeling. And it's not that they are just "angry teenagers" like some parents may think.
"Anger is usually a coverup for an emotion we don't know what to do with, which is usually pain," Dr. Smith says. "So I get angry either toward myself or I lash out at someone else. The issue here is that the anger really requires me to say, 'You know what? I need to figure out not what I'm angry about but what I'm aching about.' What's hurting you on the inside?"
Printed from Oprah.com on Sunday, March 9, 2014
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