Dan is recently divorced after 40+ years of marriage. He wants to retire but does not know if or when that will be possible. Kyla is starting a new, high-stress job in a new city. She has no family or friends, and she is wondering if she made the right decision to accept this job. Keenan has never missed a day of school, and he is on the honor roll. He is a perfect student. The stresses that Keenan, Kyla, and Dan are facing look very different on the outside, but on the inside, they are each handling these challenges the same way—they are turning to self-harm as a stress-relief. Kids, teens, and adults can self-harm. Men and women can self-harm. In most cases, these individuals are doing their best to survive traumatic and/or intensely stressful circumstances.
“It was a way of expressing my own shame of myself on my own body. I was matching the inside to the outside. And there were sometimes where my emotions were just so built up, I didn’t know what to do…” –Demi Lovato
Have you experienced what Demi describes? Many people have. When life becomes too much, people have to deal with the shame and fear and anxiety in some way, and for many people, they translate their psychological pain into physical pain through cutting or other forms of self-injury.
But many people are also proving the old cliché true, “when we know better, we do better.” There are other coping techniques that people can and have learned. These people are taking their pain, and translating it into a healthy, hopeful future. They are working with a mental health professional to learn and do better.
If you are cutting, the counselors at Thriveworks understand. We understand that you are doing your best to cope, and we know another way. If you are ready to try a new way to heal, we are ready to help.
Symptoms and Signs of Self-Mutilation
Self-mutilation can take a variety of forms. Cutting is probably the most well-known, but other forms may include branding, burning, pinching, scratching, biting, or carving one’s skin to cause pain. Some people pull out their body hair. Some sabotage their body’s natural healing process—undoing stitches or picking scabs. Some may self-harm as a ritual, possibly even on a daily basis. Some may turn to self-injury during stressful seasons of life.
The form of self-harm can vary and so can the symptoms that people are using it to cope. If people are displaying the following behaviors, they may be cutting or utilizing another form of self-harm to handle life’s stress:
- Wearing clothing that covers their neck, arms, and legs—even on warm days.
- Doubting their identity and/or their purpose in life (“Who am I?”).
- Displaying recent wounds: cuts, bruises, burns, or scratches.
- Relational challenges with teachers, friends, bosses, family, and more.
- Acting erratically and impulsively.
- Having access to or possessing sharp objects or weapons they could use to injure themselves.
- Feeling helpless, hopeless, and/or worthless.
Why Do People Turn to Self-Injury?
Usually, people start cutting or self-injuring during a very painful time in their lives. The when, why, and how of cutting are always unique as each person has a unique story. However, there are general scenarios that could raise people’s risks for turning to self-injury as a way to cope.
There is a strong link between self-harm and psychological pain. Child abuse, neglect, poverty, domestic violence, abandonment, and more are unfortunately a common theme in the lives of many people who self-harm. These and other traumas can trigger emotions such as rejection, guilt, anger, confused sexuality, worthlessness, panic, and/or self-hatred. People understandably struggle to handle these emotions.
Through self-injury, people may be trying to…
- Understand what happened to them.
- Divert their attention from the pain.
- Feel in control of something—even physical pain.
- Experience an emotion—any emotion instead of feeling numb.
Self-harm often promises and delivers on a short-lived relief. However, self-harm keeps true healing out of people’s grasp. In fact, cutting may exacerbate the difficulties people experience.
To find deeper healing, many people are working with a mental health professional. A skilled therapist or counselor can often work with people to identify and health the emotional wound that initially led them to self-harm. By working with a counselor, people may also be able to learn new coping skills that promote healing.
What If Someone You Love Is Cutting?
Friends and family can also provide needed support for people who self-harm. If you think a loved one is cutting, then know that often the most simple forms of encouragement are the best. For example,
- Be a listening ear: If you loved one wants to talk, listen without interrupting or questioning or fixing. Simply being empathetic toward their struggles can help.
- Voice your love and support: Let your loved one know how much you value their friendship or presence in your life. When appropriate, offer to support their recovery.
Self-Harm at Thriveworks Chesterfield—Counseling Appointments
If you are ready to learn a new way to handle the trauma and stress of life, Thriveworks Chesterfield is ready to support your journey. Our therapists and counselors have helped many people walk away from cutting and find true healing.
When you contact our office, know that you may be meeting with your therapist the following day. We also accept most insurance plans, and we offer evening and weekend appointments.
Let’s work together for healing. Call Thriveworks Chesterfield today.