Self injury, also called self-harm, self-mutilation, or simply cutting, is defined as any intentional injury to one's own body. Usually, self-injury leaves marks or causes tissue damage. Self-injury can involve any of the following behaviors:
Alison Zollars Arthur knows better. As the owner of a skin and body wellness center, the 44-year-old Houston resident regularly counsels her clients about the importance of a healthy diet. But too often, she pigs out on fast food, salty snacks, and wine.
"If I have one glass of wine, I will have more," she says. "The voice saying, 'You really shouldn't,' shuts down, and I can do anything I want to."
That "voice" is the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that handles planning,...
Individuals who were often raised in families that discouraged expression of anger
Individuals who lack skills to express their emotions and lack a good social support network
What Leads to Self-Injury?
Self-injury usually occurs when people face what seem like overwhelming or distressing feelings. It can also be an act of rebellion and/or rejection of parents' values and a way of individualizing oneself. Sufferers may feel that self-injury is a way of:
Temporarily relieving intense feelings, pressure, or anxiety.
Being a means to control and manage pain - unlike the pain experienced through physical or sexual abuse or trauma.
Providing a way to break through emotional numbness (the self-anesthesia that allows someone to cut without feeling pain).
Asking for help in an indirect way or drawing attention to the need for help.
Attempting to affect others by manipulating them, trying to make them care, trying to make them feel guilty, or trying to make them go away.
Self-injury also may be a reflection of a person's self-hatred. Some self-injurers are punishing themselves for having strong feelings that they were usually not allowed to express as children. They also may be punishing themselves for somehow being bad and undeserving. These feelings are an outgrowth of abuse and a belief that the abuse was deserved.
Although self-inflicted injury may result in life-threatening damage, it is not considered to be suicidal behavior.
What Are the Symptoms of Self-Injury?
The symptoms of self-injury include:
Frequent cuts and burns that cannot be explained
Self-punching or scratching
Finger or arm biting
Pulling out one's hair
Picking at one's skin
Warning Signs of Self-Injury
Signs that an individual may be engaging in self-injury include:
Wearing of pants and long sleeves in warm weather.
The appearance of lighters, razors, or sharp objects that one would not expect among a person's belongings.