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Teens and Self Cutting!!

By on Dec 13, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

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Few images evoke the degree of shock and disgust that accompanies those of self harm. When you think about cutting – one form of self harm – what likely comes to your mind is an emotionally unstable teenage girl who cuts her forearms with razor blades. However, self-injurious behavior can be much more subtle, and in turn, much more difficult to detect and address. That’s why it’s so important to know how and why it happens and where you can find help.

Self harm is intentionally harming oneself, oftentimes with the objective of alleviating suffering. Examples of self harm include cutting the skin with objects, scratching the skin, picking wounds so they can’t heal, biting or burning oneself, and more harmful instances that include hitting one’s head or breaking bones. Of the many types of self harm, cutting is the most common. It damages the skin or other tissues, it is rarely associated with suicide attempts, and it is socially unacceptable. People who cut themselves may attempt to hide the marks or scars, and they may give false explanations for how they occurred (e.g., being scratched by a pet). Teens use many different items to cut (e.g., razor blades, scissors, pens, bottle tops, etc.), and it occurs in a variety of body locations (e.g., arms, legs, genital area, abdomen, etc).

Approximately one out of every eight people engages in some form of self harm, and currently, it’s more widespread than it has been in prior decades. Among people who have mental illnesses, it is more common, affecting approximately one out of every four people.

 How It Starts

Cutting has a contagious element and therefore spreads in stressful environments that contain greater numbers of vulnerable subjects. Eager to please, overly stressed teen girls are at risk.

Many girls share that they are sickened yet fascinated when they first hear of cutting. From there, the information is stored on a shelf in their consciousness. It is an option.

Depending on factors including stress level, stress sensitivity, emotional development, emotional support and overall lifestyle health and balance, a teen girl either will or won’t explore cutting herself.

Why It “Works”

Cutting is a coping mechanism which means it is a way to regulate feelings. Unfortunately, it “works” in that teens report it makes them feel better. They like that they can control it, keep it secret, see and feel a “result,” and express emotions people don’t seem to like, especially anger and sadness.

To make things worse, the brain wires quickly for this behavior, creating a stress + cutting = relief circuit that becomes harder and harder to break over time.

Ideally, teens employ healthier coping strategies when under stress. For example, a stressed teen might exercise, talk with friends, take a nap, have a good cry, or write in a journal to relieve stress.Instead, cutting and other low ranking coping strategies are hastily adopted because our teens have no time, support, or creativity to develop better coping mechanisms.

Cutting Is A Symptom

It’s important to think of cutting as a symptom, which means it is secondary to a core problem. The core problem is that fewer teens have an opportunity to experience full and healthy development in a reasonably (not overwhelmingly) challenging environment.Externally, our teens are under too much pressure. Internally, our teens lack sufficient emotional development to help them cope with it.

External stressors are numerous, varied and interrelated. Teen girls today experience much more stress than what was common in their parents’ generation. Much more than boys, girls put themselves under extraordinary pressure to be super smart, super attractive, and super well-liked (preferably adored) by everyone. Not an easy list to master.

Additional heavy hitting stressors: getting into “a good” college, not letting people down, looking attractive, looking stylish, being thin, being really, really good at everything, keeping up with commitments, keeping up with expectations, and lastly: surviving it all to get a good job so they can work even more…for the rest of their lives.

Where do they normally do it? 

Self-injury typically takes place in secret—most often behind locked doors in the victim’s room or other private and secluded areas.

Why?
The objective is to reduce emotional pain by inflicting physical pain. These victims suffer enormous and unrelenting emotional pain. Injuring themselves physically is the only reliable method that most have found to obtain relief, however briefly. In short, they do it because it works. Injuring themselves. 

 What are the risk factors and signs to watch for?

It is important to remember that each adolescent who cuts is different and not all start or continue for the same reason. In addition, some individuals who cut may not show any of the warning signs. If you believe or know that your child is cutting, it is important to seek professional assistance to assess the reasons why the cutting is occurring and to begin appropriate treatment.

Here are some risk factors and signs that have been associated with cutting among adolescents:

 Risk factors :

 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

Lack of coping skills

Depression

 Sign

Wearing long sleeves during warm weather

Wearing thick wristbands that are never removed

Unexplained marks on body

Secretive or elusive behavior

Spending lengthy periods of time alone

Items that could be used for cutting (knives, scissors, safety pins, razors) are missing.

Where do they normally do it? 

Self-injury typically takes place in secret—most often behind locked doors in the victim’s room or other private and secluded areas.

Why?
The objective is to reduce emotional pain by inflicting physical pain. These victims suffer enormous and unrelenting emotional pain. Injuring themselves physically is the only reliable method that most have found to obtain relief, however briefly. In short, they do it because it works. Injuring themselves. 

While self-injury may bring a momentary sense of calm and a release of tension, it’s usually followed by guilt and shame and the return of painful emotions. And with self-injury comes the possibility of more serious and even fatal self-aggressive actions.

Because self-injury is often done impulsively, it can be considered an impulse-control behavior problem. Self-injury may be linked to a variety of mental disorders, such as depression, eating disorders and borderline personality disorder.

Sejal Desai 

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