Many teenagers, not only in Western countries but in many parts of Asia as well, turn to self-harm or self-mutilation as a way of coping with problems. This may help them express their feelings or distract them from emotional pain because of the many problems they face in school, with their friends, with their family, or within themselves.
Cutting may give teens a sense of calm and relief, but afterwards comes the guilt. And with self-harm may come more issues such as depression, bipolar behavior, and other mental disorders. It is important for teens, and even grown ups, to understand that they can feel better without hurting themselves.
What is cutting?
Cutting or self-harm is a way of dealing with distress, sadness, anger, or deep emotional pain. For some, doing this makes them feel better. In fact, those who inflict hurt on themselves find that they have no choice and have to do it.
Although it’s a way for them to cope, cutting opens to more problems.
If you are one of those who resort to cutting and self-harm to deal with distress, you may feel ashamed or angry thinking that no one understands what you are going through. It feels like a burden and your secret way of dealing with it may more negatively affect your relationships with people around you, and even with your feelings about your own self worth.
Common ways of self-harm
Self-harm includes any activity that causes injury to oneself. The most common ways are:
- burning yourself
- cutting yourself with a razor or any other sharp object
- severely scratching your skin with your nails or other sharp object
- hitting yourself
- banging your head or throwing your body against walls
- punching things such as the wall
- intentionally picking at wounds to prevent it from healing
- making your wounds bleed
- swallowing poisonous substances
- swallowing harmful or inappropriate objects
Other less obvious ways of self-harm would be driving recklessly, deliberately putting yourself in danger, binge drinking, taking too many drugs or medicine, and even having unsafe sex.
Spotting a cutter or self-harmer
Many who do self-harm may hide their scars through clothing and most of them may even appear to be calm and even fine in front of others. This said, detecting self-harm can be difficult. So how do you spot it?
- Inexplicable wounds or scars from cuts, burns or bruises usually found in the arms, wrists, thighs, legs, or chest
- Presence of cutting instruments or sharp objects in the person’s belongings, such as in their bags, night stand, somewhere in the bedroom or in the house. These might include knives, needles, shards of glass, broken mirrors, razors, and scissors
- Frequent wounds that they may pass off as “accidents” or being clumsy
- Blood stains on their clothing towels, bedding, handkerchiefs, or blood-soaked tissues
- Unusually covering up their arms and other parts of their bodies with clothing, such as wearing long sleeves and pants in hot weather
- Sudden need to be alone for a long time in the bedroom or bathroom, or locking themselves in a room for long periods of time
Understanding the Dynamics
Why do they do it? Here are some reasons:
- Expressing overwhelming feelings that they cannot put into words
- Releasing pain, anger, or tension
- Distracting from overwhelming distress, emotional pain, or any other emotion brought by difficult situations
- Punishing oneself to relieve guilt
- Wanting to ‘feel something’ more than simply feeling numb
Although self-harm may offer temporary relief, this does not solve the root of the problem and you may end up hurting yourself again and again instead of doing something about what got you into self-harm in the first place.
In fact, many who inflict self-harm are more prone to mental disorders and suicide.
If you resort to self-harm and wants to cope with problems in your life or simply needing someone to talk to, call us. We’re here to help or just listen. Call or text