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Decoding teen abuse with Dr. Seema Hingorrany-2

Clinical Psychologist and Trauma Expert.

Self-aware teens are powerful teens. Young adults who are capable of recognising their emotional health problems and dealing with them too, cannot be treated badly. If you also want to be in control of your emotional health, Dr. Seema Hingorrany has some advice to share. Read on...

  1. Can neglect be considered as abuse? If a teenager has probably suffered due to neglect by a parent or a primary caregiver, would this then be evident through their behaviour?

Yes early emotional neglect also comes under emotional abuse. Most of the neglect cases that I meet; are prone to drugs, prone to smoking and drinking, these kids are more likely to bully people around or get bullied. These neglected kids will never have a focus.

These are the people who either cling too much to people or develop narcissistic personality disorder are all cases of complex PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

All borderline personality disorders all come from early neglect, from the lack of emotional atonement and lack of parental nurturing. 

  1. Your message for teenagers who are living in hostels and have suffered from psychological abuse?

Speak up. Again, it’s important to talk. Speak to your parents, a trusted relative or a psychologist. Whoever you are comfortable talking to, just talk it out.

It’s the therapeutic alliance that you share with your therapist that helps you start healing.

  1. How easy or difficult is it for boys to talk about their trauma and mourn?

Men don’t talk. Most men just exhibit symptoms. Most men have mood swings because they have been told not to talk and that is because they have been told that men don’t cry.

Most teen boys just sit here and look up and down but not at me and refuse to open up. Teens boys today are better than what they used to be a few years ago. But it has again got a lot to do with conditioning that you are a boy so you can’t be weak because then who will take care of the family. Grow up, don’t be such a pansy, don’t be a sissy. All this is emotional abuse.

That’s the pressure that the patriarchy puts on boys. When my teenage boy clients finally break down, they say this is the first time they have actually acknowledged their feelings and cried in front of a lady or a girl. They are actually embarrassed about crying to a lady. Whats there to be embarrassed about. Boys are allowed to have emotions.

  1. How should teenagers cope with the after-effects of trauma and simultaneously handle transitions that teenagers typically go through?

If it is a one-time traumatic experience then family support and time can heal but in most cases of severe abuse, help is needed because abuse of any kind is going to manifest somewhere as a psychological disorder.

Secondly I suggest that teens read and stay informed about pubic and hormonal changes. So they know what is happening to them.

This has largely to do with parents and their teachings and attitudes.

  1. Your message for teenagers and parents across India on attitude towards mental health, in general?

I’m not saying this because I am a psychologist. But my message to teens and parents is that mental wellbeing and mental health is everything. If you have a sound and a healthy mind, everything will fall in place.

To parents I’d say do not project your insecurities and fears onto your kids. I say this to a lot of parents, that if you need to please take help yourself so you can understand your kid better.

I have had parents breakdown when they realise what they have been doing. I had a client who broke down when she realised she had been abusing her daughter. She would ask her daughter to pick up food from the dustbin and eat just to try and make her humble. All this because she had been treated like that by her parents.

I had to make her realise that this not something a normal person should do. So you need therapy yourself. But some parents don’t care about these things because in our country people are so focused on marks and IIT and engineering and medical that they just don’t focus on anything else. All they want is their child to become a doctor or an engineer so they can show off to the neighbours and relatives.

So I suggest parents take their child’s needs more seriously than the societal expectations.   

  1.  Can abuse lead to suicide?

Abuse leading to suicide is a high possibility. Because no one ever wants to actually kill themselves. Suicide is always a cry for help. When emotions get so overwhelming that they think no one loves them, no one will help them that is when people kill themselves.

Most suicide survivors I have spoken to tell me that they just wanted to be heard, they wanted to tell people that I am here can you hear me.

So please note that trauma and abuse both exist and my message to teens and parents is that don’t feel helpless. It can be worked upon and we are here to help.

  1. What is the attitude towards abuse in our country? What is wrong with it?

It’s really sad that we don’t teach our teen to express emotions. Even if kids do tell their parents that this uncle or that person abused me sexually, parents are like shut up. They shut the kid up because of the fear of confrontation and the fear that no one will marry my daughter. This is not done.

I tell parents, if you don’t want to do a police complaint at least walk up to the relative and confront them. In our country, teens are treated like some material that is waiting to be married off. Parents are not willing to put work in the cases of abuse victim kids. They tell me, in this room do something and make her better.

Sometimes I have found that it was a one-time assault. Sometimes by cooks or by drivers and these are young children so they haven’t spoken to anyone about it.

So the only way to deal with abuse is by understanding that you still have to report it and talk about it. Reach out to whoever you trust but talk about it. Know that it is ok to be angry and it is ok to be sad but also know that these emotions have a bandwidth and that they should not go into an overdrive.

 

If you have a story to share, Email it to us HERE.

If you have a query, Email it to us HERE.

You can also chat with the counsellor by clicking on Teentalk Expert Chat.

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Decoding teen abuse with Dr. Seema Hingorrany-1

Clinical Psychologist and Trauma Expert.

Abuse is not as uncommon as we would like to believe. Many teens grow up witnessing one or the other kind of abuse around them but don’t even know that it’s abuse. Most times, physical abuse is taken note of while emotional/mental abuse, are not even regarded offensive.

We asked Dr. Seema Hingorrany to shed some light on the issue…

  1. Tell us about abuse and the various kinds of Abuse that teenagers are susceptible to?

I see a lot of teens in my clinic who are victims of various kinds of abuse, there is physical abuse, another is high emotional abuse and of’ course there is sexual abuse.

So these are the major kinds of abuse in teens but I must tell you that abuse is never the presenting complain. We find out episodes of abuse when we conceptualise the case according to our trauma model. After a lot of prodding it comes out.

Some teens have presenting complaints like I want to kill myself, I don’t want to live. I don’t want to go to college. Doing drugs, alcohol consumption are all signs of being an abuse victim. Spending days together on bed, not wanting to go out and make a career are all signs of trauma and grief. And we find this out only when we go in deeper that these layers surface.

  1. What exactly is emotional abuse? And who can emotionally abuse a teen?

You will be surprised to know that in most cases mental or emotional abuse is done by parents. In joint families it’s done by uncles, sometimes its grandparents, sometimes it’s the parents; emotional abuse is not even considered abuse and most people are not even aware of it.

So a lot of teens think that this is how the family is supposed to treat us. Using words like – “You are such a slut, a whore. You are garbage. You are stupid. You are dumb.” – all this comes under the umbrella of emotional abuse.

Children get accustomed to being told things like these because they have been hearing it since really young age. Abusive statements like, “You are not studying, you are going to be a peon. You are going to be a jhaduwala (sweeper). Some kids are raised with this kind of a belief system. Statements like, “You look so ugly, kitne kaali hogaye hai, you are so dark.” I have had cases where parents have told their teens things like, why don’t you go and die? That will be the happiest day of my life. Why don’t you jump off the building.” All this is severe emotional abuse.

  1. How do you know a child is a victim of emotional abuse? Can you share a case of emotional abuse that you’ve dealt with?

Sadly, as a trauma expert when I interview teens to understand where they are coming from and as part of my job I have to go back to their traumatic memories. My job is to go back to those memories; accessible to my teen patients or not accessible. It’s my job to snoop around like a detective. 

And it is extremely sad that when my teen clients sit here, they are mostly emotionally numb. They don’t know what to say, they are so overwhelmed.

There was a parent who walked in and used the following words for her daughter in front of me. I was trying to talk to the mother about conceptualising the situation because the child was suicidal and she says about her own daughter; “This girl here, she is a call girl. So this is where some parents are. All this is emotional abuse.

  1. How would you define physical abuse? Why do you think parents physically abuse their kids?

Physical abuse includes beating, spanking, thrashing. Beating and thrashing kids for frivolous reasons like getting 13 marks out of 20. This is because parents have mental disorders and issues themselves and they inflict this nature of abuse on to their kids.

These are the parents who got beaten up by their parents so they want to continue the legacy. It’s a mental illness legacy in the family and if not treated it will continue further.

  1. Tell us about sexual abuse? What kind of impact can it leave on the victim?

Sexual abuse is something that many women and men go through.  There are teens who have endured sexual abuse but have not reported it because of various reasons and then they come with issues like a sound ringing in their head. People come to me with symptoms like; when I look at people I can’t see them properly but I have no eye condition. I have backache but the doctor says there is nothing wrong. These are all physical manifestations of grief and trauma.

These are the kids who have been sexually abused when they were 4 or 5 and they have been told to shut up because it probably happened in the family.

  1. What are the symptoms you can see in an abuse victim? How do you suggest a teen realises that he/she is an abuse victim?

Self aware teen clients can look for these symptoms. Symptoms of trauma are things like memories, flashbacks of the childhood so memories or flashbacks of any traumatic experience or sexual abuse that keep coming to you can manifest into bodily symptoms.

The moment the memory comes back, you experience bodily symptoms like stomach pains, or you break into rashes. Some teens have symptoms of depression where they start crying or get suicidal. This is traumatic depression. All this means that there is some traumatic memory that is haunting you.

In technical language, we call it trauma processing. It’s called working on the memories that are lodged somewhere within you and have not been worked on and were kept suppressed.

So depending on the emotional bandwidth of the client, I tell my self-aware teen clients, that whenever you get these symptoms listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Where are these pains and aches coming from and what do you really feel.

Many clients feel anxious some say they experienced tightness in the chest or throat pain. Some develop fever each time they feel anxious, some start bleeding from nose. Having recurring violent dreams where you kill someone or get killed. Getting anxiety, panic attacks without any reason. All these symptoms are inexplicable. All reports are normal. So this is just trauma manifesting in the body.  

For those teens that are clinically depressed I don’t address their memory. If I touch the trauma memory everything will burst open. So these are not aware clients. There are also clients that keep cutting themselves. Where they have been abused in one way or the other. These are clients who are suicidal and on the edge.

Which mean there is a traumatic memory that has not been worked on.  So these are the spectrums of abused clients that exist.

  1. How should teens handle abuse? How can they report it? What is the appropriate way for teenagers to deal with it?

We need to empower our teens and encourage them to speak. To speak about your emotions and speak about what’s happening to you. Raise your confidence and talk about it to your friends. If you are scared to approach elders alone take a trusted friend/ relative and walk up to your parents and tell them that you are not going to take the abuse (whichever kind it may be).

So rather than locking yourself up and crying and mourning and suffering, stand up for yourself. Speak up and talk it out. Speak to whoever you can trust, relatives, cousins, parents. Anyone who can be trusted to take action against the perpetuator.

Go to online forums and talk to other teens, find out how they have dealt with their perpetuator. 

Look up counsellors online and reach out to people who are willing to help.

Don’t be physically and mentally weak and think that it is ok to be treated badly only because your mother was treated like that. Just because someone in the older generation got away with abusing someone, it does not have to become a legacy of abuse. Stand up to your parents if they ask you to keep quiet about it. Tell them you took it for whatever reason but I won’t take it.   

I have had a client who was abused and was asked to keep shut about it, but he threatened the family that if it didn’t stop, he’ll take the matter to the police. And it worked in his favour.

So empowering the teensis an important measure to stop abuse. 

 

If you have a story to share, Email it to us HERE.

If you have a query, Email it to us HERE.

You can also chat with the counsellor by clicking on Teentalk Expert Chat.

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