4 June 2012
Pain, Pain, Go Away, Come Again Some Other Way
Cutting is known by all even to those that do cut that it is a self –destructive behavior, so why is it so disturbingly common? "Injuring yourself on purpose by making scratches or cuts on your body with a sharp object — enough to break the skin and make it bleed — is called cutting. Cutting is a type of self-injury, or SI. Most people who cut are girls, but guys self-injure, too. People who cut usually start cutting in their young teens. Some continue to cut into adulthood" (Lyness, PhD, D'Arcy) It can be difficult to understand why your friend, son, daughter, anybody close to you is harming themselves. Self-harm may be a punishment or a coping mechanism; a way to deal with emotional pain or to cause it on one's self for some perceived wrong doing. It can be done by anybody- sometimes someone least expected. Self -harm is behavior that many engage in and some are unable to stop because of the addictive nature of the behavior.
The reasons people cut are sometimes unknown even to them, but many share some common ground. According D'Arcy Lyness, PhD to factors contributing to self -harming are as follows: knowledge that friends or acquaintances are cutting, difficulty expressing feelings, extreme emotional reactions to minor occurrences (anger or sorrow), stressful family events (divorce, death, conflict), loss of a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, or social status, negative body image, and/or lack of coping skills." This can be summed up by stating that stressful situations and a lack of self-worth. Cutting is a way some people try to cope with the pain of strong emotions, intense pressure, or upsetting relationship problems. Cutting might seem like the only way to find relief or express personal pain over relationships or rejection. Cutting is like trading emotional pain for physical pain, a type that is more familiar to most teens. Kids stumble and fall all the time.
Because of the immediate "everything is okay" effect described by cutters, this act can become a habit. "It can become a compulsive meaning that the more a person does it, the more he or she feels the need to do it. The brain starts to connect the false sense of relief from bad feelings to the act of cutting, and it craves this relief the next time tension builds. When cutting becomes a compulsive behavior, it can seem impossible to stop. So cutting can seem almost like an addiction, where the urge to cut can seem too hard to resist. A behavior that starts as an attempt to feel more in control can end up controlling you" (D'Arcy Lyness, PhD). Cutting becomes the coping mechanism for any and all emotional stresses becoming the go-to response for many of those cutting.
When most people think of cutters they would most likely come up with an image of a distressed teenage girl with cuts all over her arms. This is common but not always the case. In an article by(DeRuyck,Ph.D., Kimberly) found "young people of all ethnicities, ages, and income levels intentionally harm themselves. Cutting is most common among adolescent, Caucasian females who come from intact, middle- to upper-class families. Self-injurious behavior oftentimes begins during middle school, and young people are often introduced to it through peer groups and media outlets (e.g., music, television, internet, etc.)." Cutting is influenced most simply by being around friends and media outlets. It's commonly that is found everywhere in society. "Approximately one out of every eight people engages in some form of self-injury, and currently, it's more widespread than it has been in prior decades" .Because of websites showing people cutting more people are aware of cutters, and how they cope with the emotional pain. This can cause people to turn to cutting as a coping mechanism. "Among people who have mental illnesses, it is more common, affecting approximately one out of every four people." Self-harm is a disturbingly common behavior among the population.
Cutters with mental illnesses are more common than those without, not very surprisingly. According to DeRuyck,Ph.D., Kimberly, "people who cut or self-injure sometimes have other mental health problems that contribute to their emotional tension. Cutting is sometimes (but not always) associated with depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, obsessive thinking, or compulsive behaviors." Cutting becomes more of a coping mechanism in place of anti-depressants or other drugs designed to help mitigate the effects of the illness. In addition, self-harm may be an indicator of a more serious medical issue which may require immediate attention.
It would be very informative to hear from a cutter. Here is an interview conducted with a cutter (who wishes to remain anonymous) which will hopefully provide some insight into the life of a cutter:
Me: Why do you cut? Interviewee: At this point I cut just out of addiction and not knowing how else to deal with emotions. I cut when I'm anxious, depressed or have done something wrong.
Me: What made you start cutting? Interviewee: I started self -harming to punish myself I guess.
Me: What did you/do you feel after you have cut? Interviewee: I usually feel exhausted and mentally drained.
Me: Have you ever tried to stop cutting and was it successful? Interviewee: I have, I was clean for about 5 months from cutting but I'm not sure if I would say that I've ever successfully stopped self -harming, it's almost second nature at this point to just punch or scratch myself whenever I do something wrong or feel anxious or depressed.
Me: What would you equate cutting to for those who haven't done it? Interviewee: I'm not sure really, I don't think there's really an equivalent, I can see similarities between cutting and "downer" drugs but I think that might just be my personal experiences with both.
The self -destructing behavior known as cutting is a mystery to many even the ones cutting themselves daily may not even know the reasons. The distressed teens cutting themselves are disturbingly common among today's adolescents, and are the mark of a teen in more agony than just the cuts or burns they have inflicted on themselves.
Anonymous. Personal interview. 30 May 2012.
DeRuyck,Ph.D., Kimberly, and Jennifer Resetar, Ph.D. "Understanding Teen Cutting and Self- Injury." Parenting. Boys Town, n.d. Web. 4 June 2012.
Lyness, PhD, D'Arcy. "Cutting." Teen Health. N.p., Mar. 2009. Web. 4 June 2012.
Schorn, Daniel. "Teen Shares Self-Injury Secret." CBSNews. N.p., 11 Feb. 2009. Web. 4 June 2012.