Archive for the ‘self-mutilation’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Who actually self-mutilates?

Most people up until about five years ago had never even heard of “cutters” or “emo”. However, the lingo always changes as do the behaviors of kids/teens and how they express themselves. Truly the number of young people (preteens and teens) that are the group that primarily cut themselves is growing by leaps and bounds. Self-harm is rarely an act of suicide, however it is a cry for help for the person that is abusing themselves by cutting. Teens that self-mutilate usually either cut themselves, burn themselves, pick at their skin, or pull their hair out (this is called trichotillomania). Approximately two million people in the United States are injuring themselves right now and are doing so as a way to cope with an overwhelming situation or feelings that they are not quite sure what to do with. Unfortunately, injuring yourself becomes quite addicting and professional help is often needed in order to stop engaging in this very addictive behavior.

People that injure themselves have some very common traits with each other:
they typically have a co-existing disorder such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, an eating disorder, or a substance abuse problem.
they usually have a support group that is limited or non-existent and have no one to talk to about what is going on in their life. In other words, they feel isolated.
they typically have not been allowed in their life to express themselves, whether it is with anger or crying and have bottled up all of their feelings.
they have poor coping skills and when times get tough, they do not have the tools necessary to deal with the crisis or stressor.

The truth is that people that self-harm scare the people around them and their family/friends are usually at a loss of what to do or say to them. I have found that parents/caregivers do not understand why their loved one would actually harm themselves. The key to helping them is to: encourage them to find a professional counselor or psychologist, let them know that you care and are there for them, encourage them to express themselves openly and honestly, and don’t tell them to stop the behavior (this only reinforces their feelings of helplessness.) Remember, self-injury is addicting and is not so easy to “just stop.” For the person that is self-injuring, the very first step is to acknowledge that their is a problem and this is not about being a “bad person”, this is about getting the help you need in order to learn to cope with stressors more effectively.

PostHeaderIcon What kids can do to stop self-mutilation

Kids/Teens inflict injury upon themselves for a variety of reasons. I often hear parents tell me that they have no idea why their teen is cutting themselves and are in disbelief that he/she is doing this to themself.

The reasons that a teen cuts themselves are as follows:
They cut in order to regain control because physical pain is much easier to control than emotional/mental pain.
Cutting reduces tension in their body and mind.
They cut in order to punish themselves as they most likely feel bad, sad, angry, ugly, fat, stupid, etc… (this is about the teen perceives themself not how others may actually perceive them).
To express anger or rape when words may be too painful for them to express.
To feel pain, as many teens will tell me that it is better to feel something than nothing. This makes them feel alive as many teens say that they feel “invisible” at home or at school.

What can teens do to help themselves stop cutting? First of all, self-mutilation is a very negative way of coping with life stressors and the first step for any kid/teen is to first acknowledge that they have a problem. Teens that cut are hurting on the inside and professional help is almost always needed in order to stop this behavior. Cutting is like any other addiction, it is very difficult to stop once you start doing it. Secondly, the teen with the help of a professional needs to realize that they are not a bad person because they cut. Cutting is a “bad behavior”, it does NOT mean that the teen is a bad person. Cutting is about finding a way to deal with your feelings, albeit a negative one. Thirdly, to deal with cutting behaviors, a teen must talk to someone about their feelings. Finding someone to trust in order to deal with your feelings is crucial to working through this addiction. With the help of a counselor, you and your therapist together can determine what triggers your cutting behavior. In other words, we have to identify what things to avoid that make you want to cut and address them.
Recognizing that hurting oneself is really a way for a teenager to self-soothe helps in the recovery process. A professional will help in developing more effective ways in calming you down as well as soothing yourself when you become upset. Lastly, it is very important to figure out what purpose cutting yourself serves you. In order to stop cutting, the act of injuring oneself must be replaced with a more effective way to handle feelings of unhappiness and anger.

Qualified professional help is almost always required in order to stop this addictive behavior. Find a therapist that understands this behavior and knows the steps in order to deal with this type of problem.