seems to be the most common type of self-injury. "Cutters" often use
razors, utility knives, scissors, needles, broken glass, or whatever
they find to make repetitive slices on their arms, legs or other body
parts. Some people burn themselves with cigarettes or lighters, others
pull out their own hair.
Many people who self-injure say they do it
because they normally feel "numb" and cutting helps them to "feel alive."
Others talk about the "sense of control" they may get from self-injury.
This may be the first time or thing that they have felt a sense of control
in their lives. Most agree that incidents of self-injury are triggered
by stress and anxiety.
Self-injury is usually kept secret, and the "cutter" often feels deep
shame and guilt from this ritual. People who self-injure are at risk
for infections if their wounds are not treated properly. Permanent scarring
can also result from self-injury and often does. Many people who self-injure
wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and turtlenecks even in warm weather
to conceal the marks they've left on their own bodies.
Do People Self-Injure?
problem is not completely understood by health care professionals or
psychologists. It seems to be most common among people who have been
sexually abused as children, molested as children, or by survivors of
Whatever the context
or reason, self-injury seems to function as a coping mechanism. "Cutters"
use self-harm to feel calm, "in control," or just to "feel something."
However, self-injury is not a healthy coping mechanism - it is a self-destructive
behavior that probably reflects deeper, more complicated mental health
or personal problems. (See the end of this article for some quotes and
"stories" of people who self-injure).
Common Factors of Self-Injury
* Age of onset between 10 - 16 years old
* There was
a major change in the teen's life -- parents divorce or death
* There is
a history of family violence, abuse or sexual abuse
feelings of fear, hurt, anger, rejection or abandonment
of loss and or need for control
Some Common Reasons Why People Cut Themselves
some of the reasons our readers who "cut" shared with us.
They find it soothing:
* To feel
pain on the outside instead of the inside
* To cope
* To express
anger towards themselves
* To feel
alive, instead of "numb"
A way of communicating what they can't say with words:
* To tell
people they need help
* To get
* To tell
someon they should be in hospital
An attempt to get people to react to their actions:
* To get
people to care for them
* To make
other people feel guilty
* To drive
* To get
away from stress and responsibility
* To manipulate
people or situations
Events Reported by Young Adults Who Self-Injure:
* Being rejected by someone who is important to them
* Being blamed
for something over which they had no control
* Being "wrong"
in some way
People who self-injure
can learn to use new and healthier coping mechanisms. This process
may take years to develop.
It also is important to get help from a
therapist who specializes in self-injury. He or she can help the person
figure out what lies behind the urge to cut or injure. New coping
mechanisms may include exercising, painting, writing, yoga or dancing
instead of hurting oneself. A process that involves self-expression
is often helpful. Whatever works as an alternative method of coping
with the feelings of anxiety or stress or "numbness" is often a good
start toward recovery.
you hurt yourself intentionally, remember you are not alone. You might
think that this behavior makes you a "weird," but you can see from
the statistics that it is more common than you thought. Talk to a
counselor, therapist or your health care provider, chances are they've
helped others with this same problem. Whatever pain or bad experiences
underlie your urge to self-injure, a professional can help you to
heal, both inside and out.
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