Do you hurt yourself when you are sad, overwhelmed, angry, or feeling empty? Cutting and self-mutilation have become increasingly common among teens today. It is used as an expression of feeling, a distraction from your life, or an emotional release. Cutting provides temporary relief, but the key word is “temporary.” The problems, feelings, emotions or even emptiness will always come back causing you to cut over and over again for relief. It is highly addictive leaving teens wanting to stop, but not knowing how. Cutting and self-mutilation is a way of expressing deep distress and emotional pain. In the case of cutting, hurting yourself actually makes you feel better. The big problem with cutting is that the relief is short-lived. It is a temporary fix, like putting a band-aid on a wound that actually needs surgery. Most teens do this in secret because they feel ashamed or they feel like no one will understand. Ultimately, the secrecy and guilt affects relationships with friends and family, and will make a teen feel worse about their own self worth. If you are a teen that cuts, please realize, you aren’t alone. There is help and there is a way where you can feel better about yourself and your life.
Feelings tied to Cutting & Self Mutilation:
Feeling Abandoned – Afraid – Threatened – Isolated – Alone – Misunderstood – Judged – Unaccepted – Rejected – Controlled – Powerless – Untrusted – Untrusting – Unsafe – Trapped – Imprisoned – Not Listened To – Unheard – Failing – Abnormal – Confused – Guilty – Responsible – Overwhelmed – Unloved – Uncared About – Punished – Hated
Signs and Symptoms Tied to Cutting & SM:
-Cutting, scratching, burning, or severe scalding on the skin
-Hitting or banging on one’s head
-Intentionally preventing wounds from healing
-Punching random things or throwing your body against a wall
-Swallowing poisonous substances
-Binge drinking and drug use
-Having unprotected sex
-Wearing long sleeved clothing even on warm days
-Unexplained scars, cuts, burns, or bruises on the wrists, arms, thighs or chest
-Sharp objects in a person’s belongings
-Blood stained clothing, linens, bedding, tissues, etc.
-A need to be alone for extended periods of time in a bedroom or bathroom
-Irritability and isolation
How does Cutting/Self-Mutilation “Seem” to help?
-Distracts you from overwhelming emotions or difficult situations in your life
-Relieves guilt via punishing yourself
-Helps you to feel like you are in control
-Releases pain and tension felt inside
-Makes you feel alive, or actually “feel something”, instead of feeling numb
-Expresses feelings you can’t put into words
While Self-Mutilation seems to help you, in the long term it causes many more problems than it actually solves. This method of coping prevents you from learning more effective strategies for feeling better. It also isolates you from your family and friends, can become addictive, can seem impossible to stop eventually, and can actually hurt you via cutting too deep and giving yourself an infected wound. In the end, cutting DOES NOT help you with the issues that made you want to hurt yourself in the first place.
From HelpGuide.org- Help for cutting and self-harm– If you are currently using cutting or self mutilation to cope with situations in your life and you want help, this is a good place to start. Read these three steps given by HelpGuide.org. Also at the end of this page, you can find phone numbers to resources that will be able to help you.
Step 1: Confide in someone
Need help for self-harm?
If you’re ready to get help for cutting or self-harm, the first step is to confide in another person. It can be scary to talk about the very thing you have worked so hard to hide, but it can also be a huge relief to finally let go of your secret and share what you’re going through.
Deciding whom you can trust with such personal information can be difficult. Choose someone who isn’t going to gossip or try to take control of your recovery. Ask yourself who in your life makes you feel accepted and supported. It could be a friend, teacher, religious leader, counselor, or relative. But you don’t necessarily have to choose someone you are close to.
Eventually, you’ll want to open up to your inner circle of friends and family members, but sometimes it’s easier to start by talking to an adult who you respect—such as a teacher, religious leader, or counselor – who has a little more distance from the situation and won’t find it as difficult to be objective.
Tips for talking about cutting and self-injury
Focus on your feelings. Instead of sharing sensational details of your self-harm behavior—what specifically you do to hurt yourself—focus on the feelings or situations that lead to it. This can help the person you’re confiding in better understand where you’re coming from. It also helps to let the person know why you’re telling them. Do you want help or advice from them? Do you simply want another person to know so you can let go of the secret?
Communicate in whatever way you feel most comfortable. If you’re too nervous to talk in person, consider starting off the conversation with an email or letter (although it’s important to eventually follow-up with a face-to-face conversation). Don’t feel pressured into sharing things you’re not ready to talk about. You don’t have to show the person your injuries or answer any questions you don’t feel comfortable answering.
Give the person time to process what you tell them. As difficult as it is for you to open up, it may also be difficult for the person you tell—especially if it’s a close friend or family member. Sometimes, you may not like the way the person reacts. Try to remember that reactions such as shock, anger, and fear come out of concern for you. It may help to print out this article for the people you choose to tell. The better they understand self-harm, the better able they’ll be to support you.
Talking about self-harm can be very stressful and bring up a lot of emotions. Don’t be discouraged if the situation feels worse for a short time right after sharing your secret. It’s uncomfortable to confront and change long-standing habits. But once you get past these initial challenges, you’ll start to feel better.
Step 2: Figure out why you cut
Learn to manage overwhelming stress and emotions- Understanding why you cut or self-harm is a vital first step toward your recovery. If you can figure out what function your self-injury serves, you can learn other ways to get those needs met—which in turn can reduce your desire to hurt yourself.
Identify your self-harm triggers- Remember, self-harm is most often a way of dealing with emotional pain. What feelings make you want to cut or hurt yourself? Sadness? Anger? Shame? Loneliness? Guilt? Emptiness? Once you learn to recognize the feelings that trigger your need to self-injure, you can start developing healthier alternatives.
Get in touch with your feelings
If you’re having a hard time pinpointing the feelings that trigger your urge to cut, you may need to work on your emotional awareness. Emotional awareness means knowing what you are feeling and why. It’s the ability to identify and express what you are feeling from moment to moment and to understand the connection between your feelings and your actions.
The idea of paying attention to your feelings—rather than numbing them or releasing them through self-harm—may sound frightening to you. You may be afraid that you’ll get overwhelmed or be stuck with the pain. But the truth is that emotions quickly come and go if you let them. If you don’t try to fight, judge, or beat yourself up over the feeling, you’ll find that it soon fades, replaced by another emotion. It’s only when you obsess over the feeling that it persists.
Step 3: Find new coping techniques
Self-harm is your way of dealing with feelings and difficult situations. So if you’re going to stop, you need to have alternative ways of coping in place so you can respond differently when you start to feel like cutting or hurting yourself.
If you cut to express pain and intense emotions– Paint, draw, or scribble on a big piece of paper with red ink or paint, Express your feelings in a journal, Compose a poem or song to say what you feel, Write down any negative feelings and then rip the paper up, Listen to music that expresses what you’re feeling, shout out your pain to God and pray
If you cut to calm and soothe yourself– Take a bath or hot shower, Pet or cuddle with a dog or cat, Wrap yourself in a warm blanket, Massage your neck, hands, and feet, Listen to calming music, seek comfort from God and pray
If you cut because you feel disconnected and numb– Call a friend (you don’t have to talk about self-harm), Take a cold shower, Hold an ice cube in the crook of your arm or leg, Chew something with a very strong taste, like chili peppers, peppermint, or a grapefruit peel, Go online to a self-help website, chat room, or message board, seek connection with God and pray
If you cut to release tension or vent anger– Exercise vigorously—run, dance, jump rope, or hit a punching bag, Punch a cushion or mattress or scream into your pillow, Squeeze a stress ball or squish Play-Doh or clay, Rip something up (sheets of paper, a magazine), Make some noise (play an instrument, bang on pots and pans), seek peace from God and pray
If you’re not sure where to turn, please call the resources below:
S.A.F.E. Alternatives information line at (800) 366-8288 for referrals and support for cutting and self-harm.
In the middle of a crisis? If you’re feeling suicidal and need help right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately at (800) 273-8255.