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Teen Afraid to Reach Out for Help She Needs

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.

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DEAR ABBY: I work in a small public library. We love helping our patrons and receiving donations of books. However, there are a few things we'd like folks to keep in mind:

1. If the sign says "Closed," we are closed. The door may be unlocked to allow staff easy entrance, but we are not open for business.

2. We are not baby sitters. We are glad to see you and your children, and to get you started on research, but you must watch your kids and keep them under control.

3. We can accept books that are in good condition only. If the volume has been rotting in your basement or has been extensively written in, please throw it out. We cannot place defaced literature in our collection.

4. Any book checked out on your card is your responsibility. If you let your kids use your card and they return a book late, understand that you are the person liable for the fine.

5. Please leave your cell phone in the car or turn it off while using the library. Ringing phones and personal conversations are disruptive and distract the other patrons.

Thank you for helping us get the word out. -- LIBRARY LADY, ANYTOWN, U.S.A.

DEAR LIBRARY LADY: You're welcome. However, on the chance that your patrons miss reading today's column, your business hours should be clearly posted at the entrance of your building. And the rest of your rules should be printed in large block letters and hung behind the information and checkout desks where no one can miss them.

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Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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