The Basic Facts of Self Mutilation

Most teenagers go through hormonal changes that cause very strong anger, sadness, depression, and irritability. This is completely normal, and although everyone has different ways of dealing with pain, self mutilation is a method that causes lifelong harm to those who do it, and often the people that care about them.

What exactly is self mutilation? A very basic definition is inflicting harm on yourself to ease or alter a mood state. The most common form of self mutilation is cutting. Cutting is a tragic idea which is quickly growing in popularity. On average, it is mainly a female’s way of dealing with emotional pain, but there are also many males that take part in it. “Cutters,” as they are often called, use any blade or sharp object they can to cut themselves. Usually this sharp object is a piece of broken glass, razorblade, knife, or safety pin.

Cutters typically choose an unnoticeable spot on their bodies, or a spot they can easily hide, on which to cut themselves. A few examples of this are on the ankles, under socks, high up on the thighs where even shorts would cover, and sometimes on the stomach. This makes it even more of a problem, because then there’s less of a chance that their cuts will be seen, and they probably won’t get the help they need. While some prefer to keep it completely hidden, others slit their wrists, among other places, and wear hooded sweatshirts and long sleeved shirts to cover it. Again, they have less of a chance of being found out.

Burning is a less common, but still horrifying, form of self mutilation. One of the most popular ways of burning is to light an average cigarette lighter for a few minutes, and then touching it to the skin. With some lighters, this act leaves a smiley face scar. Sometimes they simply use a lit cigarette, among many other things.

Why would anyone do this to themselves? Most self-injurers will tell you that they cause themselves pain on the outside to ease the pain on the inside. If they can focus on the physical pain, it takes their minds off of the emotions they’re feeling. They use self-harm to cope with unpleasant feelings. Some cutters aren’t as interested in pain as they are in blood- the sight of blood gives them a numbing sensation, and they begin to feel a bit better when they begin to bleed. All self-injurers have different reasons to hurt themselves, and they all do it to a different extent. Though they may appear suicidal, most self-injurers don’t want to die, but simply stop the pain.

There are very many different ideas as to why someone would hurt his or herself, but in addition to the ones mentioned above, some people do it as a cry for help. They need help but they don’t know how to ask for it, so they cut themselves in visible places, in hopes that someone will see it and provide them the help they need. Some do it to make others feel guilty or to drive people away, mainly by shocking them. Most people who are not self-injurers look at those who self-harm as psychotic freaks, or suicidal outcasts. Usually, neither is true.

What type of person is most at risk to self-mutilate? In many cases, the self-injurer had a history of abuse or sexual molestation in his or her life, but not always. Absolutely anyone could be at risk, ranging from young childhood to senior years. It is most common among women ages 13 to 30, but not at all limited to that group. Often it is the result of a traumatic event in the self-injurer’s life, such as their parents’ divorce, or the death of someone they were close to.

Are there any warning signs that someone close to you may be harming his or herself? It all varies from person to person, but sometimes there are definite hints. Suicidal people may intentionally drop hints to someone they’re close to. Also, for example, if someone wears long sleeves every single day of summer, there’s probably something they’re trying to hide. People who self-injure are often spaced out, looking sad, obviously deep in thought. If little signs like this are caught on time, someone’s life could be saved.

Self mutilation is a very serious problem. It’s occurred for years, but professionals’ theories have changed extensively over the past couple decades. Today, there is a lot more help available for those who self-injure and those who are suicidal. If you know someone who seems to show any signs that he or she is hurting his or herself, please encourage them to seek help. By simply caring, you could save someone’s life.

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