Why People Cut Themselves 1

by Dr. George Crabb on April 7, 2010 · 2 comments

The day in the office had been a demanding one. Many sick individuals needing medical care and compassion. As I entered into the next room I was startled to see a 16 year old girl in long sleeves sitting in the corner with her mother sitting next to her. I was taken back by her long sleeves because it was the middle of the summer with the temperature around 85 with the humidity not that far behind. I started to question the young girl about the reason for seeing me. After a while of her “beating around the bush” she finally said, “I am here to get help because I keep hurting myself.” I came to find out that this type of behavior started soon after her best friend had been tragically killed in an automobile accident. As I examined her I found multiple cuts up and down both arms and several burn marks on her thighs. The girl and her mother both pleaded for help.

This young girl was in bondage to the destructive behavior we call self-harm. Specifically for this girl she was in bondage to cutting and burning herself. Each individual that does self-harm knows how it makes them feel and that the feeling it generates is fairly consistent. As with addictive drugs, self-harm is very effective at masking the real root problem that exist in the person’s life. When someone is a cutter their actions manipulate neurotransmitters in the brain that create a false sense of enjoyment and calmness. This sense of enjoyment and calmness is, of course, only temporary.

Can you imagine slicing your stomach with a razor blade or carving a design in your arm? How about burning your fingertips with a cigarette or scorching your palms with a lighter? Do you think you could ever intentionally break a finger, arm, foot, or a leg because you wanted too? These are some of the activities behind self-harm. Most of the individuals that engage in self-harm behavior never thought they could do the above activities. But, now that they have started and experienced the calmness and sense of control from this behavior, they now find it hard to stop. In fact, they have become addicted to this self-harm behavior.
Self-injury has many paradoxes. They hate and like what they do. They want and don’t want to stop. They cut, burn, and bruise themselves, but they do not want to kill themselves. They find shame and comfort in their scars.

Self-harm is also known as “self-injurious behavior” (SIB). This includes self-mutilazation, cutting, self-abuse, and parasuicidal behavior. Self-harm is a widely misunderstood behavior, characterized by repeated, deliberate, non-lethal harming of one’s body. The great misunderstanding about self-harm is the assumption that self-injurers want to die, and that their self-injurious behaviors are just failed attempts at suicide. This is not necessarily the case. I have found the best way to describe the reasons for self-injury, and they are as follows:

#1 Self-injurers commonly report that they feel empty inside.
#2 Self-injurers commonly report that they are under or over stimulated.
#3 Self-injurers commonly report that they are unable to express their feelings.
#4 Self-injurers commonly report that they are not understood by others.
#5 Self-injurers commonly report that they are fearful of intimate relationships.

Most self-injurers are females. Over 50% of self-injurers were sexually abused. Many self-injurers deal with depression and severe anxiety disorders. Those that self-harm come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Outward issues do not determine whether or not someone becomes a self-Injurer. It has more to do with an inward inability to express feelings or cope with strong emotions. Please join me tomorrow as I expose the main reason most individuals harm themselves.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

lilywhite October 5, 2010 at 5:34 pm

hi, when i was in 6th grade i used to burn myself by taking an eraser and rubbing it on my arms, legs and feet. i continue this still when im in 9th grade. is there any way to stop? i have seen counselors and docters and its not working. nothing bad has happend to me ever so why do i still harm myself? can you help me?

drcrabb September 5, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Please visit the RU web page and consider going to their residential treatment program located in Rockford, Illinois. Their web site is http://www.reformu.com

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