03 Apr Cutting Hurts All of Us- Self Harm Part 1: Signs and Symptoms
Cutting oneself has become a common way for teens and even adults to cope with overwhelming emotions. Recognizing signs and symptoms and positively reacting to seek help for a loved one who self-harms is the first step in the healing process.
Self-Harm in majority of cases are not suicide attempts. Rather self-harmers cut to cope with life stressors and overwhelming feelings. “Having acquired no truly adaptive internal abilities to soothe herself or control distress the self-injurer comes to rely on action…to gain relief from any uncomfortable feelings or thoughts”. Cutting with razors, erasers, paperclips, and even knives helps the self-harmer give release to inner turmoil. Other forms of self-harm also include burning with candles, rope burning, excessive body piercing, and use of scissors. The self-harm allows her to have control over areas of her life where she feels she has no control. Other times, she or he may be trying to call for help and seek attention to those not listening in his or her life. Sometimes there is a contagion affect with cutting; kids cut because their peers suggest it as a helpful coping skill.
Some Possible signs of self-harm:
- Scars and scabs on arms/legs or other body areas
- Isolation from family in locked room or bathroom
- Bloodied cotton balls/hydrogen peroxide for cleaning of cuts
- Wearing pants and long sleeves in warmer weather to hide scars
- Poor excuses or reasons for scars/scabbing
- Razors from pencil sharpeners, exacto knives, broken glass, broken paper clips
- Peers that self-harm
- Major life traumas during childhood such a verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, witnessing domestic violence
- Poor coping skills
- Anger management problems
- Eating Disorder
Many self-harmers have been put in positions of taking care of others’ personal needs first: younger siblings, substance using parents, chaotic life environment that they lack the skills to self-nurture and self-soothe. The goal of therapy is changing thoughts and behaviors to better cope with life’s pain. The bible speaks in 2 Timothy 1:7 “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and self- control.” Self-harmers can learn to control the impulse to cut and gain a sense of power in their lives by learning healthy coping skills.
Self Harm is something to take serious and not just attention-seeking behavior. Please seek professional help for your loved one who self-harms.
 Conterio, k.and W. Lader Bodily Harm p.20 New York: Hyperion, 1998