DEAR ABBY: Lately when I'm upset about something, I have been snapping my wrists with rubber bands. It seemed harmless at first, better than cutting, right? But I have noticed that now I have red lines that never go away and the welts take longer to disappear, and I'm constantly having to cover them up.
I'm 15 and I'm worried that I can't stop doing it. I'm not even sure why I do it, but I'm actually more scared to stop than I am to continue. I'm embarrassed and ashamed, and I don't want to hurt my family. I know they'd be upset if they found out. I don't want to ask for help, but also, I don't want to stop. Please help me. -- MESSED UP IN MINNESOTA
DEAR MESSED UP: The first step in resolving a problem is recognizing you have one and that you need help. You have done that. I have heard from other young people that they're embarrassed, ashamed or scared to tell their parents they have a problem because they're afraid their parents will become upset or angry. This is wrong. Parents may react -- but only out of concern.
Snapping a rubber band is a technique some people use to stop a bad habit -- like smoking. You, however, appear to be using it as a way of not dealing with your emotions. The marks on your wrists may be caused because the rubber bands are so tight they are cutting off your circulation.
There is a reason you are trying to distract yourself with pain, and it's important that you find out what it is so your behavior doesn't escalate. A licensed mental health professional can help you quickly get to the root of your problem, and telling your parents what's going on is the fastest way to get that help. Please don't put it off any longer.