Conner is starting high school in a new city and a new school. He feels like he never fits in anywhere and hopes, just maybe, this time will be different. Abigail is in her mid-20s and three years into her first full-time job. Juggling adult responsibilities has been far harder than she ever anticipated. James is at the end of his career. He could retire, but he has no idea what he would do with himself without work. Conner, Abigail, and James may be facing vastly different life circumstances, but they are dealing with them in a similar way—they are using self-harm to handle the stress. Many different kinds of people injure themselves as a way of coping with overwhelming emotions and circumstances—men and women, young and old. Causing themselves to feel pain may be the best way they know how to feel in control, experience relief, or feel anything except numbness.
“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
Heartbreaking circumstances often plague people who self-injure. They often have faced victimization, abandonment, trauma, poverty, and more, and they may not know another way to express their experiences and their feelings than through physical pain. These experiences are not their fault, and many people are doing their best to cope.
There is an old saying, “When we know better, we do better.” Many people who have used self-harm as a coping mechanism in the past are learning new coping skills. These skills allow them to handle their difficult circumstances and emotions in a life-giving and hope-filled way. For support as they learn, many people are also working with a therapist or counselor. That is why Thriveworks Littleton offers appointments for cutting and self-harm. We have worked with many clients as they discover different ways to express their emotions.
Self-Inflicted Wounds: Symptoms and Signs
The signs and symptoms that somebody may be cutting can vary greatly from individual to individual because the forms of self-harm can vary. Many people associate self-harm with cutting, but self-inflicted wounds can take many forms, including scratching, carving, burning, tattooing, branding, pinching, and punching. In some cases, people pull their out or interfere with a wound that is healing. Typical signs that someone may be coping through self-harm include:
- Using clothing to hide wounds—wearing long pants and sleeves even during hot weather.
- New, raw wounds such as burns, cuts, bruises, scratches, lacerations, et cetera.
- Owning or gaining access to sharp objects or weapons that can cause the injuries.
- Toxic or challenging relationships with family, friends, co-workers, teachers, and more.
- Nagging questions concerning one’s existence, identity, or purpose.
- Behaviors that are unpredictable and impulsive.
- Persistent feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, or worthlessness.
Possible Causes of Self-Harm
One common thread that is woven through almost every case of self-harm is psychological pain. What has caused the agony will be unique to each individual, but the accompanying emotional torment is not. Possibly, people who cut have been abused or neglected as a child. Possibly, they have faced poverty or trauma. These circumstances can trigger panic, guilt, anxiety, worthlessness, loneliness, anger, confused sexuality, fear, rejection, or self-hatred.
As people process their psychological pain, self-harm may be the best way they know how to cope and…
- Divert their attention from the pain.
- Ease their panic.
- Feel in control.
- Escape their feelings of numbness—even through pain.
- Express their experiences and emotions.
- Blame themselves for their experience.
I Suspect a Loved One May Be Cutting…
At times, friends and family members may wonder if a loved one is cutting. If you think someone you love is coping through self-harm, know that there are many ways you can help and be supportive. For most occasions, simply being present with them will make a big difference. Specifically, this could look like…
- Listening when they speak: If your loved one wants to share, let them. Do not question, criticize, or accuse, but simply let them talk about what they feel comfortable sharing.
- Express your care and concern for them: Let them know how much you care for them. Show them how you value their presence in your life.
- Offer tangible support and encourage treatment: You cannot make your loved one pursue recovery, but encourage it as appropriate. Then, support them as you are able—possibly offer a ride to counseling or to drop off a prescription.
Therapy and Counseling for Self-Mutilation at Thriveworks Littleton
As you read through this information on self-harm, did anything resonate with your experience? If you or someone you care for is using cutting to cope with difficult circumstances and emotions, you are not alone. Many people have used self-harm as a coping mechanism, but many people are also learning new ways to handle life’s pain.
If you are ready to work with a therapist or counselor, know that Thriveworks Littleton offers appointments for cutting and self-harm. When you call our office, you may have your first appointment the following day. We do not keep waitlists, but we offer weekend and evening appointments. Our office also accepts most forms of insurance.
If you are ready to begin a healing process, we are ready to walk with you. Contact Thriveworks Littleton today.