I am a self mutilator. I know that this is looked down on by most people but for me it is a way to make sense of my sadness... it makes more sense for me to be in physical pain rather...
Originally Published: April 18, 1995 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: February 27, 2009
I am very concerned about a friend of mine who recently has taken to self-mutilation. She makes multiple scratches on her arm on a daily basis with a knife or scissors. I asked her why she does this, and she is not sure; she just feels like it. PLEASE, PLEASE tell me if my concern is warranted and what I should do.
— What's normal?
Dear What's normal?,
Your concern is definitely warranted. Although more people have turned to "cutting" lately, their reasons for doing so aren't necessarily new. Mental health professionals agree that "cutters" usually have some psychological disturbance that leads them to injure themselves. This, however, doesn't mean that helping your friend is a lost cause — there's good evidence to suggest that people who self-mutilate who decide to seek treatment are able to stop cutting and move on with their lives.
To start off, it might help you to know more about cutting in general as you try to understand what your friend is going through. Cutting is a type of self-mutilation or self-injury that occurs mostly among young people, and there are three times as many women who do it than men. Although your friend self-injures by scratching her skin with a sharp object, there's a range of ways to self-mutilate. For instance, others intentionally cut or burn themselves, jab themselves with needles, rub glass into their skin, or pull out their head and body hair. People who self-mutilate are at increased risk for drug and alcohol misuse and disordered eating. They are also often quiet survivors of sexual and/or physical abuse.
Some people who self-injure say they feel numb, unable to feel or experience anything. They might admit that self-mutilation is an attempt to feel something in their lives — a check-in that they're still alive. For others, self-mutilation is a way of temporarily coping with emotional pain that seems to go away as they see blood flow from their self-inflicted wounds.
It's really likely your friend could benefit from speaking with someone, not only to help heal her visible wounds but her invisible ones as well. The thing is, it's ultimately her decision to seek help. You could consider telling her that you're concerned and you've done research, and see where she takes the conversation. She may see your genuine concern as just the type of support she needs to make the next move toward recovery. Unfortunately, it's also possible she'll brush your attempt off the first time. If she does, you could keep her on your radar and check in with her later. All the while, you'll be sending the message that you care. When she's ready to look for help, your willingness to understand and support her might be just what she needs.
When she's ready, it could be helpful to offer her some resources. You can start by referring her to the Self-Abuse Finally Ends (S.A.F.E.) Alternatives information line at 1.800.DON'T.CUT (1.800.366.8288). If she's interested (or becomes interested) in counseling, you can point her in the direction of mental health services. At Columbia, there's counseling at Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) — call x4-2878 for an appointment. Most other colleges and universities also have counseling centers. Anyone can visit the National Institute of Mental Health's Getting Help: Locate Services for more information on finding a counselor nearby. If your friend has health insurance, her plan may have a list of counselors and a procedure for connecting with services. That information should be on their web site or brochure. She could also call the company to get more guidance.
Now that you know more about self-injury, you'll be better able to understand your friend's situation. With some luck and finesse, a supportive conversation with her might nudge her toward seeking the help she needs. You seem like a genuine, concerned friend that anyone would be lucky to have!
February 5, 200921502
I am a self mutilator. I know that this is looked down on by most people but for me it is a way to make sense of my sadness... it makes more sense for me to be in physical pain rather than just mental pain. I have tried medication for my depression and anxiety and for me cutting is the only way to get rid of my sadness. I know it sounds lame but it's how I feel.
October 22, 200721289
April 15, 200520888
I am in a relationship where I have recently found out that my boyfriend has had a past habit of cutting himself. We have talked about this and he has reassured me that it was not going...
I am in a relationship where I have recently found out that my boyfriend has had a past habit of cutting himself. We have talked about this and he has reassured me that it was not going to happen again, but sure enough, when we got into an argument, he resorted to splitting his arm open with a piece of glass. Now I know for sure that his past habit was not left in the past. His friends and family know about his situation and have tried to help him before. Nothing has seemed to work, though. I feel that I am closer to him and that I may be able to have a more severe impact on his feelings on self mutilation. I will never be able to completely understand why he does this to himself, but I do know that to him it isn't a cry for help, but a reassurance that he is still alive. My advice to all readers is never to give up on the person who is abusing their body. Even if they don't agree with you at first, never leave their side and make them feel alone. If you can show them that you are enough, eventually they will care that much, too! To my boyfriend: I love you and want you to see your problem and know that I am always here! Please protect yourself!!
December 16, 200420838
Self-mutilation is often misunderstood by those who do not have this particular behavioral disorder. They cannot understand why a person would deliberately hurt themselves. People...
Self-mutilation is often misunderstood by those who do not have this particular behavioral disorder. They cannot understand why a person would deliberately hurt themselves. People often catagorize it as a "cry for help." The fact is, a self-mutilator doesn't want the world to see their scars. A self-mutilator, for some reason or another, has never learned the vocabulary of expressing how they feel. All the dark, bad emotions bottle up inside until one finds a way to give them a way to escape. Often the "cutter" doesn't consciously make the decision to hurt themselves; they're compulsed to do so. There's a certain relief of seeing yourself bleed, of making yourself hurt on the outside so it doesn't hurt so much on the inside. (It's the same kind of idea as stepping on your toes so your headache doesn't hurt so much.)
There's a common thing that the self-mutilator needs: support. They need to know that someone is there to listen to them, no matter how stupid it may sound to themselves. Sometimes a person slips up; that's normal. Everyone needs to feel loved and cared for, and it's often hard for a self-mutilator to trust anyone with what they lock inside their hearts. How do I know all this? I'm 25-years-old and had started cutting and burning myself at the age of 16. No one knew about it until this year, when I wasn't careful enough to not be seen doing it. It's been about 6 months since I last cut myself, and I long ago gave up burning myself. Every day is a challenge in itself, but I take each day one at a time. And now, I have friends on my side, too.
To those who either engage in self-mutilation or those who live with a self-mutilator, I recommend the book Cutting by Steven Levenkron. I cried so many times reading that book because of how close to home it hit. It not only explains why the disorder surfaces in some people, but it describes how to help self-mutilators.
Thank you, and to all those people who do hurt themselves, you're not alone!!! There is no shame in seeking help to correct something you know isn't right!!!
August 31, 200420787
My name is Gracie and I am fifteen-years-old. When I was about fourteen, I began cutting myself with a pocketknife. It was big things that made me cut at first like people...
My name is Gracie and I am fifteen-years-old. When I was about fourteen, I began cutting myself with a pocketknife. It was big things that made me cut at first like people calling me fat and stuff like that, and me feeling trapped, feeling like I had no one to talk to. It was overwhelming. Well, this year things got worse. The boy I loved who had held me together through everything I felt and who I thought I was going out with told me he didn't like me like that. I fell apart, feeling like I had no one, I started to self-mutilate once again. First, I would burn my skin away with an electric nail filer. My best friend, Mikey, once told me that he was going to call an ambulance if I didn't stop because I was cutting myself when I was on the phone with him. Now, though, a year from when I first started cutting the cutting is worse than ever I use razor blades and cut even deeper into my skin than I would before, losing a lot of blood each time, and it's little things that make me cut like I have a fight with my dad or something like that. The reason why I cut is because I feel like I have no way to deal with my problems, and it feels like when you cut, your problems gradually go away. If I could go back in time, I would make myself get help. It's important that I recognize myself as a beautiful person who is an individual and not let the thoughts of others forsake me. So, if you are contemplating self-mutilation my advice is to not do it. Get help. Problems aren't worth cutting. The scars that are on my arm will be there forever please keep this in mind if you are self-mutilating or contemplating doing so.
August 12, 200420781
Some people say that for people like us, people who self-mutilate, it is a way of looking for attention. Although for some people it may be, but for most, it's not. For most, it's a...
Some people say that for people like us, people who self-mutilate, it is a way of looking for attention. Although for some people it may be, but for most, it's not. For most, it's a way of feeling better. People who don't hurt themselves don't know what it's like for us (those who do). They don't know the pain we go through and even if others got it worse, self-mutilation is our way of dealing with it. I'm not saying that it's right to hurt yourself, but I'm trying to get across a point that those who don't self-injure shouldn't look at us and pass judgment. I think that this topic is under-looked and should be more talked about to help people understand why we do it. I am a fifteen-year-old female self-mutilator who lives in South Africa and I've accepted my condition and am now looking for help. My parents know about it and haven't quite come to terms with it yet because they don't understand it; they think it's their fault, which it's not. I keep wondering what it would be like to walk around with a short sleeved top or a bikini, and there are many places that I want to go, but don't want to go, like the beach, because even if I wear a full swimsuit, my scars will still be seen. On hot days, I don't want to go out because if I do, I have to cover up most of my body, and it's because of my stupid decisions I now have to live with the consequences. Sometimes I do go out and bare my scars, not because I want to, but because I have to and on the rare occasion when I do go out, the looks I get from people really hurts me in a way I can't explain. It really does hurt and I'm sick and tired of hiding.