Self-Injury is not a suicide attempt. Self-injury is a coping mechanism. You don’t do it to be cool and fit in with the crowd. Cutters use self-injury to feel calm, in control, or just to “feel something.”
Teen girls who self-injure often try to put on a front that they don’t care about people or what people think when, in fact, they feel very deeply and long to feel connected to someone. Often that longing leads them to settle for unhealthy relationships.
Bambi: Sometimes when you just get really hurt, and you can’t explain why it hurts so bad. For me it would help to find something that hurt, and find a reason for it to hurt.
– Cutting and self-injury is a method used by individuals to take care of themselves, their feelings and actions.
– 90% of self-injury individuals begin harming themselves during their teen years or younger.
– Almost 50% of cutters or people who self-injure have reported being sexually abused.
– 60% of all individuals who self-injure are females.
Bambi: I was just really upset, it would just calm me down and make everything else just stop.
– Self-injury is also considered to be a way of communicating without the words.
Cutting can become a compulsive behavior: the more a person does it, the more he or she feels the need to do it again. The brain connects the false sense of relief to the act of cutting, and it craves this relief the next time tension builds. When cutting becomes a compulsive behavior, it can seem impossible to stop. A behavior that starts as an attempt to feel more in control can end up controlling you.
Cutting is sometimes (but not always) associated with depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and obsessive thinking. Some people who cut themselves have problems with drug or alcohol abuse.
– The typical self-injurer is a white-middle class female who started cutting around puberty. She is usually intelligent but suffers from low self-esteem or depression. She also has a hard time expressing her thoughts and typically has an insatiable need for love and acceptance.
– Experts say the pain of self-injury replaces internal pain and emotional suffering.
– If someone is depressed, they will self-injure so that they can reaffirm their lives…so they can feel. For some, it’s about seeing the blood: if they can bleed that means they are still alive.
It took Bambi’s parents three years to find out: how could they not know?
– Most self-injurers hide it well. It’s a very secretive behavior. They worry about their parents’ response to self-injury. Quite often a parent’s initial reaction is anger. They take it personally. They don’t get what’s going on. How can you do this? This reaction drives the behavior that much deeper, mom and dad don’t understand.
Tips to Help
Tell someone you trust about your feelings. This is one of the hardest steps. However, confiding in somebody who is trustworthy will be well worth it; they will be able to give you advice and support. They can help you understand your emotions and be an alternative outlet to cutting. Don’t be discouraged if they seem shocked, scared, or maybe even horrified. Wait for the person to come to terms with the situation. This person may be a teacher, school counselor, parent, friend, relative, etc.
Keep a hotline number with you at all times. If you haven’t gathered the courage to open up to someone close to you yet, then talking anonymously on an untracked hotline (800-DONTCUT or 800-366-8288) would be a good idea. Whenever you feel like cutting yourself, call the hotline number and tell them how you’re feeling. The staff will be able to help you learn a lot more about your emotions.
Try talking to a professional crisis clinician. A trained professional may be able to tell you if you have the symptoms of a disease or disorder (depression, etc.) that may be causing you to cut. They may also be able to refer you to a clinic or support group.
Remove cutting tools from your immediate area. If you have time to search for something to cut yourself with, you may just be able to crush the impulse. Don’t keep sharp objects on your table, and don’t put razors in a close drawer or cupboard. If you do not yet feel able to throw out your tools, try to delay getting to them by keeping them wrapped up tightly and in hard to reach places.
Identify the ‘trigger’ that gives you the urge to cut. The moment you have the urge to cut, stop and think of what has just occurred. Remember it, and try to avoid these situations. For example, if you’ve just had an argument with somebody close to you and are having the urge to cut, stop and ask yourself what’s making you feel this way; “I feel like cutting myself because I’ve just had an argument with somebody I love, and it’s making me feel really badly.” Determine what in particular makes this situation trigger negative emotions: a certain feeling or maybe an action.
If you need to hurt yourself, do it in a controlled and less harmful way. A good idea is to wear a rubber band around your wrist. Every time you want to cut, snap the rubber band against your wrist instead. You can also draw on your wrist with red pen, or rub an ice cube on your wrist. Although all of these cause some immediate pain, it is much milder and much less dangerous.
Distract yourself. Some people feel that rather than analyzing their emotions, they feel better when they get rid of them or forget them completely. When you feel the urge to cut, try distracting yourself by trying out the following:
– Drink a glass of water
– Watch TV
– Do some form of exercise–run, walk, ride your bike, or just dance like crazy
– Take your dog for a walk, or spend some time with a pet
Recognize that cutting is just the symptom of a root problem. Think about what makes you want to cut yourself. Now you are ready to seek and get help. Doctors and trained staff from all kinds of services have been taught especially to help people in your situation. No matter what your issue, age, gender, or background, never feel ashamed to seek help.
Although cutting can be a difficult pattern to break, it is possible. Getting professional help to overcome the problem doesn’t mean that you are weak or crazy. Therapists and counselors are trained to help people discover inner strengths that can help them heal. These inner strengths can then be used to cope with life’s problems in a healthy way.