A 13-year-old is switching schools, again, and he hopes that this year will be the year he finally fits in. A middle age single dad feels stuck, and he is not sure what he is doing with his life. A woman in her 50s is rebuilding a new life after a divorce. These individuals face varied circumstances and life stresses, but they are responding to them in a similar way: with cutting. All kinds of people—men and women, young and old—cope with the intense emotions they feel in the best way they know how, though turning those feelings inward, upon their own body.
“Other times, I look at my scars and see something else:
a girl who was trying to cope with something horrible that she should never have had to live through at all. My scars show pain and suffering, but they also show my will to survive. They’re part of my history that’ll always be there.”
― Cheryl Rainfield, Scars
Underneath the self-harm are often traumatic and painful life events and tumultuous emotions. Like most people, people who cut are doing their best to survive and to express their experiences. They often translate their emotional pain into physical pain. While this offers a temporary release, long-term healing often remains out of their grasp.
For many who self-harm, they have found the long-term healing they long for through working with a therapist who can help them identify and heal wounds as well as learn new coping mechanisms for handling difficult emotions that arise.
If you are self-harming and are ready for a long-term solution to the pain you feel, know that Thriveworks Marietta has helped many clients find a new way.
Various Types of Self-Injury
When the topic of self-injury arises, people generally assume that means cutting. While cutting is likely the most recognized form, there are many ways a person can participate in self-injury. Often, people choose several different forms of self-injury to express their psychological pain in physical form.
When people self-injure, they may…
- Burn themselves—employ matches, heat, ropes, cigarettes, or more in the injury.
- Punch, hit, bite, pinch themselves.
- Brand, carve, or tattoo—represent the psychological pain with a word, symbol, or picture.
- Lacerate themselves—slashing, scratching, stabbing, cutting, piercing their body.
- Undermine another wound’s healing process—picking stitches, scabs, et cetera.
- Grabbing their hair—painfully plucking a substantial amount of hair.
Some people regularly injure themselves, almost as a ritual or routine of their daily or weekly schedule. Others self-harm during stressful seasons or when difficult emotions are triggered.
Risk Factors for Cutting
While anyone from any circumstances can turn to self-injury as a coping mechanism, certain factors increase an individual’s risk for doing so. The following are risk factors that are often common denominators for self-harming behavior.
- Mental Illness: Harming oneself is not an independent mental health diagnosis, but it can occur alongside of many diagnoses. Particularly, people who wrestle with depression, a conduct disorder, an autism spectrum disorder, bipolar disorder, phobias, borderline personality disorder, or schizophrenia may also self-injure.
- Emotional Pain: People who self-harm often have faced unspeakable circumstances such as child maltreatment and neglect, abusive relationships, unemployment, bereavement, poverty, and more. The emotional pain that these trigger may increase an individual’s risk for cutting.
- Drug or Alcohol Use/abuse: One study tracked self-injury cases at a hospital in Norther Ireland, and it found that in over 60 percent of these cases, alcohol contributed. Many people use drugs or alcohol while they harm themselves.
Another Way: Learning Different Coping Mechanisms
There is a cliché that says, “when people know better, they do better.” For many people, cutting is what they know, and for many people, they are willing to learn another way. Challenging emotions and traumatic experiences can be processed in a way that gives people hope and healing. If you are ready to try something new, these are a few coping mechanisms—a place to start learning a different way:
- Call a friend. Make a list of people you can call or text on a regular basis. Let them know more and more about your experiences and feelings are you feel comfortable. Even connecting with a loved one briefly can help people feel better.
- Think about your physical and emotional safety. It is okay to protect yourself. When possible, avoid situations, people, or media that may put you on edge.
- Notice what you are feeling and experiencing. Cultivating self-awareness can be done through journaling, taking a yoga class, going for a nature walk, sitting in a quiet space. Find a way that works for you and give yourself permission observe any feelings that arise.
A counselor or therapist can often identify which coping skills might be most beneficial to a particular person, and many people choose to work with a mental health professional as they heal from self-injury.
Counseling for Self-Harm at Thriveworks Marietta
If it is time for you to reach out for help from a mental health professional, know that the counselors and therapists at Thriveworks Marietta are ready to help. We hope that our clients feel supported from the moment they call our office.
When you call Thriveworks Marietta, a person will answer your call and help schedule your appointment. Weekend and evening sessions are available. We also accept most forms of insurance.
Thriveworks Marietta has appointments available for self-harm and cutting. Contact us today.