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"But I have such a Great Catch!" Treating Abusive Controlling Relationships
Abusive Relationships continuing education counselor CEUs

Section 17
Adolescents Trapped in Controlling Relationships

CEU Question 17 |
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A teenager in today’s society may be trapped inside a controlling dating relationship. Pressures on today’s adolescent include the necessity to make choices prior generations either never had to face or at least did not controlling relationship Controlling Relationship social work continuing ed have to deal with until full adulthood. By the very early teens, young people have to find their way among conflicting ideas related to their sexual activity, their sexuality, and find themselves involved in dating relationships at a young age. With the radical breakdown of intact families and disillisionment with institutions and governments, it is very hard for a young person to know what or whom to believe in. The tendency is to turn toward each other, but peer pressure may bring other kinds of conflict and confusion that may lead to a teen to feel locked inside a controlling dating relationship.

Probably everyone at some low point in his or her life will have thoughts of suicide. Fleeting thoughts of suicide are not uncommon, but the power of these feelings at a given moment may make the difference between life and death. Teenagers have a less developed sense of impulse control than adults. They are also prone to dramatic mood changes. Life can be wonderful one minute and horrible the next. Without emotional experience and maturation to know how to deal with controlling relationships, they may impulsively turn to suicide in an attempt to gain control over their life.This means that early detection of these relationships and other factors that could be influencing an adolescent’s daily life are very important.

If a young person feels trapped within a controlling dating relationship, it may seem like the end of the world. This stressful situation may also call up feelings over former losses: the earlier death of a parent or sibling, loss through parental divorce. Adolescents can become overwhelmed with a sense of double loss. At the same time, they may be unaware that the reason the present situation feels so unbearable may be because other losses have re-entered their emotional sphere. Like ghosts slipping out of a closet, losses from the past can magnify the present suffering to unmanageable proportions. The adolescent can begin to feel out of control and entrapped, terribly lonely, and full of incurable pain. When a teenager has been in a controlling relationship for a long amount of time, almost any sudden loss or performance failure, such as “blowing” an exam or having an argument with his or her parent, may trigger an impulsive suicidal act, if the adolescent has already been feeling suicidal.

These adolescents hurt. They feel trapped in a situation where they don’t see any way out. They feel hopeless about their lives and helpless to do anything about changing things. In most cases, the young person has tried to cope in every way he or she knows with no change in sight. Eventually they turn these despairing feelings back on themselves, coming to believe that all this is happening to them because they are failures, at fault, worthless, and unlovable as persons. Their families and the world would be better off without them. This bitterness may be accompanied by an angry wish to punish their controlling partner. There is an overwhelming loneliness in feeling that no one could possibly understand what they are going through.

Also, if the adolescent has made a previous suicide attempt, the possibility of suicide as a way to handle pain has already been tried. Many completed suicides are by people who have made prior attempts to kill themselves. Therefore, a person who has made a previous attempt, and whose cry for help was largely unnoticed at the time or whose act was ignored as simply an “attention-getter,” might very well make another attempt. Succeeding attempts usually increase in lethality.

For that reason, in assessing the lethality of the situation, it is important to find out whether the person has considered suicide previously, has determined on a method for suicide, and/or has in his or her possession the immediate means for death: pills, poison, a rope, a gun, a car, access to heights, knives, or a razor.

Adapted from Preventing Teenage Suicide: The Living Alternative Handbook. Joan, Polly. Human Sciences Press, Inc: New York, NY. 1986.
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.

Personal Reflection Exercise #3
The preceding section contained information about Adolescents Trapped in Controlling Relationships. Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section of the Manual in your practice.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 17:
What makes an adolescent trapped in a controlling relationship a lethal situation? To select and enter your answer go to
CEU Answer Booklet.

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The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.
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