Teen Cutting and Self Injury

Why do people cut themselves?

For most people pain isn’t a desirable feeling. The very act of cutting or burning themselves seems the height of folly. But for those who injure themselves deliberately such an act is coping mechanism for strong emotions and pressure.

Self-inflicted injury gives a sense of euphoria and relief but it is quickly followed by shame at such an action. Cutting isn’t a disease or disorder. It is a form of abnormal behavior that accompanies disorders such as depression and borderline personality disorder.

Self- injury is broadly defined as behavior that attempts to alter a mood by inflicting serious bodily harm. The most common form is cutting of the arms, feet and the front of the body mainly because these parts of the body are easy to reach.

The other types of self- injurious behavior are scratching, biting, banging the head, piercing the skin, carving wounds, and burning. Tattoos and body piercing aren’t considered a form of self- injury despite everything a parent can say, mainly because these are done in a social setting and are intended to make the body beautiful.

Self-injury is done in privacy. It is mostly an impulsive act. The person injuring himself has no other intention except to release tension and cope with overpowering emotions. Self-mutilation isn’t a sign of a suicidal personality although the severity of the injuries may result in death.

The act of cutting is hard to detect. The person you suspect may actually just be accident prone. Look for scars from burns or wounds. Keeping a sharp object at hand is also an indicator of self mutilation as well as wearing long sleeves even in hot weather. There really is no clear method of discovering the person who cuts himself. They come from all walks of life. The very secrecy of the act helps for it to go on right under the noses of family and friends.

Self-injury offers instant relief but in the long run it is just a temporary solution to an underlying problem. People harm themselves for many reasons. It is important for those who are trying to help that they remain non-judgmental. Psychotherapy is the most common treatment. In psychotherapy or talk therapy the patient tries to unearth the problems that lead to the self-injuring behavior.

The psychiatrist teaches the person new ways of coping with stress. Group therapy and family therapy are other activities that the psychiatrist may utilize. Medication is also a possibility especially if the cutter is suffering from chronic depression and other mental disorders. However true healing can only be done if the person who is cutting participates fully in the process.

Getting help

Here are some healthy alternatives for you if you want to stop cutting. These should be done in tandem with actual therapy.

Fight the urge with knowledge. Knowing what your triggers are in cutting will help you avoid them and the subsequent coping mechanism. If your therapist has given you an action plan then follow it to the letter.

Pass the Urge. The need to cut yourself isn’t really a need but an urge. All urges can be overcome with time. If you just wait out the urge your control over the self-injuring behavior will become stronger. Some of the activities you can do while waiting for the impulse to pass are listening to music, going for long walks, take a shower, watch some television, play a musical instrument. Just remember to do these activities without a cutting implement in plain sight. Placing temptation right in front of you may break your self-control.

Express yourself. Cutting is just another form of expressing hidden emotions. Find a way to release your pent up anxieties without resorting to cutting. Drawing, writing and composing are wonderful artistic alternatives to self-mutilation.

Release Physical Tension. Relieving the pressure of daily life can help mitigate the need to cut yourself. Try screaming at the top of your lungs. Or throwing a ball at a wall. Lift weights or any other form of physical exercise.

Connect. Often people who injure themselves feel unloved and isolated from the world in general. Get a pet to help alleviate your loneliness. You aren’t as friendless as you may think. Call old friends and reconnect. Go to seminars.

Substitute the sensation. Try the other methods first before you try substituting the cutting sensation. This isn’t very helpful in understanding why you need to cut but it will help you get some relief without adding more scars. Hold your hand over icy water. Draw red marks over your skin. Snap a rubber band against your skin.

Overcoming the need to cut yourself isn’t as easy as making pie. It requires admitting to the problem and having the courage to seek help. Going to therapy doesn’t mean you should be admitted to an asylum. It is certainly better than carving out the map of France in your arm.


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