Self Injury is a
really big problem/issue these days, especially among abuse
victims. I didn't even know that what I did had a label until I
started working with kids who did it too.
People look upon self injury with a great variety of
reactions--disgust, alarm, pity, condemnation...and from a very
There was an episode of ER where a young woman came in because
she had collapsed or something and they discovered that she
"cut" or self injured herself. I think the show blew it out of
proportion towards the negative, as many tend to do. Not that
it's not potentially dangerous or even life threatening, but in
most cases it is hardly grounds for holding someone against
their will or force-tranquilizing them.
The reasons for cutting/self injuring vary as greatly as the
people who do it. Understanding one case doesn't mean
understanding another, let alone all cases. Some hurt themselves
physically because it distracts from the worse mental anguish.
Some do it because it is something they can control in a life
that is chaos. Some do it to make themselves unattractive or
disgusting to those who might get close and hurt them. Some do
it to fit in with others who do it.
I lost count of the kids who only started injuring themselves
because it seemed to be the normal thing for kids in their
circumstances, or for those who were surviving.
Just as there are many reasons for self injury, there are many
ways of doing it. Most common is cutting. I have also met people
who scrape, burn, stab, hit, freeze, and do various other things
to themselves. Many self injurers attempt to hide their
injuries. Some wear long, covering clothing even in hot weather.
Another common factor of self injury is triggering. Triggering
is a sight, sound, smell, etc that "triggers" the person to have
a need/desire to self injure. Seeing blood is often a big
trigger. Situations of intense emotion, good or bad can trigger.
And countless small and large things dependent on the
individual. I've seen things as simple as calling someone a
"lady" trigger them to self injure.
I'm not sure why I am writing this. I guess just for increased
awareness. Self injury is a problem, but it is not something
that a person should be judged by. It is usually a survival
mechanism. I always told the kids I work with: try to stop, but
don't condemn yourself if you don't this time. Sort of like
drugs or alcoholism--you're never really cured, you're just "on
I have been mostly self injury free for about 9 years now.
Sometimes there is a strong urge to hurt myself. I usually
don't, but I can never drop my guard fully. If you look closely
at me, you will see the scars. Call them a sign of the worse
emotional scars on the inside.
Just be aware, and don't freak out if someday a self injurer
needs your help. The real problem often can't be seen in a
physical wound, and concentrating on that won't solve it.