Self-Injurious Behavior “Cutting”
Self-injury is the act of deliberately destroying body tissue at times to change
a way of feeling. Self-injury is
seen differently by groups and cultures within society.
This appears to have become more popular lately, especially in
adolescents. The causes and severity
of self-injury can vary. Some forms may include:
and pulling skin and hair
adolescents may self-mutilate to take risks, rebel, reject their parents'
values, state their individuality or merely be accepted.
Others, however, may injure themselves out of desperation or anger to
seek attention, to show their hopelessness and worthlessness, or because they
have suicidal thoughts. These
children may suffer from serious psychiatric problems such as depression,
psychosis, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Bipolar Disorder.
Additionally, some adolescents who engage in self-injury may develop
Borderline Personality Disorder as adults. Some
young children may resort to self-injurious acts from time to time but often
grow out of it. Children with mental
retardation and/or autism may also show these behaviors which may persist into
adulthood. Children who have been abused or abandoned may self-mutilate.
do adolescents self-injure?
who have difficulty talking about their feelings may show their emotional
tension, physical discomfort, pain and low self-esteem with self-injurious
behaviors. Although they may feel like the "steam" in the
"pressure cooker" has been released following the act of hurting
themselves, teenagers may instead feel hurt, anger, fear and hate.
The effects of peer pressure and contagion can also influence adolescents
to injure themselves. Even though
fads come and go, most of the wounds on the adolescents' skin will be permanent.
Occasionally, teenagers may hide their scars, burns and bruises due to
feeling embarrassed, rejected or criticized about their deformities.
can parents and teenagers do about self-injury?
are encouraged to talk with their children about respecting and valuing their
bodies. Parents should also serve as
role models for their teenagers by not engaging in acts of self-harm.
Some helpful ways for adolescents to avoid hurting themselves include
reality and find ways to make the present moment more tolerable
feelings and talk them out rather than acting on them
themselves from feelings of self-harm (for example, counting to ten, waiting
15 minutes, saying "NO!" or "STOP!," practicing
breathing exercises, journaling, drawing, thinking about positive images,
using ice and rubber bands, etc.)
think, and evaluate the pros and cons of self-injury
themselves in a positive, non-injurious, way
positive stress management
better social skills
by a mental health professional may assist in identifying and treating the
underlying causes of self-injury. Feelings
of wanting to die or kill themselves are reasons for adolescents to seek
professional care emergently. A
child and adolescent psychiatrist can also diagnose and treat the serious
psychiatric disorders that may accompany self-injurious behavior.
If you or someone you know is
intentionally hurting themselves, get help now – speak to a close friend, a
doctor, or call Infoline in CT at 211 for information on where to get help in
of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry