People sometimes resort to cutting themselves or other self-inflicted harm methods as a way to cope with trauma or overwhelming issues.
While cutting and other self-injury may make you feel better for a short time, then the pain eventually returns without any permanent recovery. The good news is that help is available. You can end this dangerous cycle by learning safer, healthier ways to manage problems.
Emotional reasons behind cutting and self-harm
When emotions feel out of hand and you can’t cope with your pain, you may cut or harm yourself to:
- Regulate strong emotions to deal with high stress or calm your nerves.
- Distract yourself from emotional pain as a way to feel something or deal with trauma.
- Express things that cannot be put into words; as the only way you know to show anger or deep sadness.
- Exert control over your body; thinking it will prevent something worse from happening.
- Self-punish or express self-hate. You may have a childhood history of physical, sexual or emotional abuse and erroneously blame yourself for it. Self-harm can be a way to punish yourself.
- Self-soothe if you know no other way to calm intense emotions.
Because clothing can hide physical injuries and a calm disposition can mask inner turmoil, it is often difficult to detect self injuries. Also, self-harmers often go to great lengths to keep their injuries hidden due to shame and guilt.
- Unexplained wounds – or scars from cuts, bruises or cigarette burns, usually on the wrists, arms, thighs or chest.
- Signs of depression – lingering sadness, tearfulness, lack of motivation or loss of energy.
- Frequent “accidents” – or repeated claims of clumsiness or mishaps to explain away injuries.
- Changes in eating habits – from being secretive about eating to unusual weight loss/gain (eating disorders are often associated with self-harm).
- Covering up – insisting on wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather.
Solutions and Treatment
It may seem impossible to stop the cycle of self-harming, but with self-reflection and help from a friend or professional, you can recover. Here’s how:
- Acknowledge the problem – You are probably hurting on the inside and need to stop the addictive behavior.
- Determine the cause – Realize self-harm is an attempt to self-soothe and determine what the triggers are. Replace self-harm with expressing anger, sadness and fear in healthy ways.
- Decide to stop – Recovery begins with the decision that you want your life to change. Ask yourself why you want to stop and remind yourself of those reasons often as you begin to heal.
- Decide when you will stop – Set a time to quit self-injury so you can mentally prepare for the change. Be realistic and reflective about a start date.
- Confide in someone – It can be scary to talk about the very thing you have kept hidden, but opening up to someone you trust is an important step toward recovery. Find the right person, you need someone you can trust and with whom you feel at ease who won’t gossip or take control of your recovery.
- Just say it – Don’t put off the conversation; go ahead and tell them what’s going on.
- Set boundaries – You don’t have to show the person your injuries, or answer any questions you don’t feel comfortable answering.
If you feel that you or someone you love may be suffering from symptoms of these symptoms, please request an appointment with an iTherapy counselor.