Cutting: Not Just for Kids

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2014 Nancy Virden

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It’s in the news these days; teenage girls are purposely mutilating their bodies. This is not tattoos, body piercings, or any other type of body art. Neither is it suicide. It is self-injury, most often referred to as cutting even though other means of injury are prevalent as well.

I’ve met a few of these girls. Believe it or not, self-injury is addictive, and not a “just say no” problem. Obviously, it is driven by powerful emotions.

Some people who engage in it say it is calming, others report it overcomes their emotional numbness. Some will hurt themselves in front of others or talk about it freely, while many will keep it hidden. Regardless of why or how, people who hurt themselves on purpose are in genuine need of emotional support.

What is not reported in the news is who else is self-injuring.  Boys and adults are also using this means to temporarily escape overwhelming  stress. Not having one’s basic emotional needs met can lead to unhealthy coping. I know one boy, one man, and several older women who self-injure. The women started later in life, in their twenties, thirties, and fifties.  Is it possible there are senior citizens reaching for relief by engaging in this behavior? Absolutely.

With self-injury’s addictive properties, it makes sense that young girls age into women with the same problem. I’ve heard people celebrate anywhere from one day of abstaining to two years or more of recovery. Personally, I do not know anyone who has been free of self-injury longer than that and talks about it. Shame and embarrassment keep the public ignorant of the facts . Doctors outside of the psychiatric field have little idea of what to do and will sometimes turn away self-injuring patients.

The purpose of today’s blog is to open the discussion just a bit. Issues like this must be brought to the forefront in order for society to effectively support the hurting.

If you know someone who self-injures, reach out for professional support. There is hope, help, and healing.

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline     1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

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