Why People Cut Themselves – Vol. 361, May 12, 2016
It’s 1994, I’m working at a supportive housing program for mentally ill adults. A young mother comes to me her first day in the program. She told me, “I have something to show you.” I brought her into the adjoining room, empty at the time so we could speak and she could show me what she had to show me in private. She raises her sleeve to show me 10 cuts she had made across her left forearm. I asked her what happened. She told me that she really didn’t remember doing it, just that she noticed the cuts and thought it best to let staff know. So, off to the emergency room we went to get her cuts cleaned up and a psychological evaluation done. This particular client had been diagnosed with depression and borderline personality disorder. Sadly, the social worker at the hospital did not take her actions seriously, having seen her many times previously. A year later, I found out she did indeed manage to commit suicide.
I have worked in the world of mental health since 1993. And, the one thing I have noted is that those who cut themselves do it to feel calm. The clients that I have worked with who cut, were eating disordered for the most part. Many had numbed out their feelings sick of feeling hurt, sick of feeling rage, mostly toward themselves. They call it “self-loathing.”
Most often though, cutters cut themselves while they are in a dissociated state. They don’t feel it, they just notice the blood coming out which, calms them. Some will say that they cut to release the deep emotional pain they feel and bring it to a physical state instead. It hurts less to them in the physical state.
Interestingly enough some people will release endorphins, giving them a pleasurable “high” when they take a blade to their skin. Cutting becomes an addiction when it is used in this manner.
In some cases the scars are there to show the emotional pain that these young people are feeling. It can very difficult to speak about one’s problems, so It can be seen as a call for help. Though, in the majority of cases, they usually wear long sleeves or pants to hide the cutting they have done.
This is a huge problem here in the United States with 20% of the girls between 10 and 18 years of age cutting themselves or burning themselves with matches, etc, according to researchers at Yale University. So, this behavior is starting earlier then it once did. In the studies that were done in the 1990s these behaviors were only found in 3% or lower of the girls.
If you are having an issue with this, and you are using it to feel, “high” shift to something that is better for you like running or biking. If you are feeling hatred toward yourself, the best thing to do is to get yourself some professional help. For most of you, you are too young to be stuck feeling this way. Find someone with whom to speak about the problems that you are having. Many times this can help more then you would believe. If that doesn’t work, seek out some professional help to get you feeling better and to stop this self-injury and the self-loathing that is the cause for many of you. There are many positive qualities that you have, you just can’t perceive them on your own. That’s where getting someone to help you see what you can’t, will be very helpful to you indeed.
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