Beneath the scars and bruises of every cutter, lies a very dark and hidden secret. For some, it may be the sexual abuse they went through as a child. For another, it could be how her drunken father beat her and her mother every night. And even for others, the secret could be as simple as not feeling loved. But every single one of them has the same problem-the inability to verbalize their emotions. It is more than likely a lack of coping skills that causes this self-injurious behavior. The cutter is raised in a very negative, or perhaps even an overly positive, environment.
As a child, they grow up without learning methods of dealing with frustrating or painful emotions. Shy children may also have this problem. To the parents, they may appear successful, happy and positive. However, they may truly be very quiet, socially rejected loners who feel no outlet to a constant emptiness within. At the other end of the scale, growing up in a violent home with abuse, neglect, rejection and other forms of pain, no proper coping tools are developed here, either. The cutter is introduced to violence, drugs/alcohol, sex, and other destructive behaviors. These become their only known ways of coping. As they mature, they often will become drug abusers, alcoholics and may abuse spouses, or their own children, also.
However, if the pain remains inside, and the victim feels they must remain very secretive, they could turn to self-abuse. Interestingly enough, cutting is not advertised like drugs and sex, nor is it as "socially-acceptable" as eating disorders. More often than not, it is "discovered" by accident or as an impulsive and almost instinctive response to some form of hurtful stimuli. In one example, a girl got into a fight with her mother and went upstairs to take a shower. While she was shaving her legs, she suddenly sliced her wrists with her shaving razor and as the blood started to trickle out, she discovered a new kind of relief; thus began her 13 years of habitual self-mutilation.
For many cutters, their pain is described as a random mess of hurt that has no past and no future. Some will be able to link their self-injury to a past event, but most will not. It is this darkest secret that will eat away at the cutter's consciousness until there is nothing left. Digging deep into the past is the only way to find it and free it from their mind. It may be easier for a cutter to talk to a friend or a teacher or a therapist, as opposed to a family member. Sometimes, the pain or secrets they hold can be related to the concerned parent, and trying to pry into them and find out what the problem is will only irritate the problem more.
Sexual abuse is the top-most found factor in cutting, and the most common gender of cutters-female. It seems that out of all of the horrible things a young girl can experience, cutting chooses the most painful. Being molested or raped is an embarrassing and shameful experience, leaving the victim hurt, alienated, and exposed to the world. What they must understand is that they are not alone and that keeping it inside will make it worse. Telling someone they trust will get them in the direction of being happy again.
Many people do not know how to approach someone who self-injures. Criticism, ridicule, threats and strict contracts, however, are certainly not the appropriate ways. It must be understood that someone who self-injures feels trapped and alone and incapable of expressing his or her emotions. They have resorted to a coping mechanism that keeps them in secret, secure and alone. Exploiting them and/or attacking them for their actions will worsen the problem and may lead to worse injuries or even a suicide attempt. Instead, gaining a strong and unbreakable trust is the key to helping a cutter.
Betrayal is one of the many blocks that make up the foundation of a cutter's pain. When a cutter feels they can trust you, that is a very big step. Once this is accomplished, care, love, and respect are necessary, along with assuring the cutter that they will not be left alone and that better solutions will be found. Once a secure connection is established, it is time to let the dark and painful past spill out. Remember that painful experiences that a cutter holds on to and keeps trapped inside, will always come back and will get worse as time goes on. It is proven that getting out these bad memories and painful pasts do a great bit of good in moving forward from self-mutilation. Keep in mind that you are becoming this person's "emotion journal." They are turning to you to pour out everything they have kept inside for ove out from the shadowed abyss of self-mutilation.
Self-injury is a negative way of dealing with strong emotions and can include cutting, scratching, burning, mutilating, hitting oneself, or anything else that causes bodily harm.
According to CNN.com, one in five teens purposely injure themselves. Some view self-injury as trendy, but to parents and others, it can be frightening and frustrating. It is most common during adolescent and teenage years and it affect people of all sexes and backgrounds. According to the National Mental Health Association and S.A.F.E., alternatives report that those who seek help for self-injury, are more likely teenage girls from middle or upper class backgrounds.
Teen self-injury, self-mutilation or cutting can be overcome, but the problems causing a teen to self-injure or self-mutilate, such as cutting, need to be resolved and the teen must learn healthier ways to deal with emotions. Some of the reasons teens give for self-injuring or self mutilating include: