Know the Signs of Self-Mutilation

Tracey Wilson

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Why Doesn't Anyone Notice? That's what many people, especially teenagers are asking all across the globe. Self-Mutilation is becoming the way young people handle their frustrations and hurts. The physical pain of usually cutting, (or another form of self-harm), covers the pain in their heart. It's one of the biggest cries for help any one could give. Self-Mutilation needs to be taken very seriously, and the person should get help right away.

People who self-harm usually keep it very secretive, because they are embarrassed by doing it, but find it almost impossible to stop. It's a disorder where people perform their own kind of therapy, by cutting, burning, and hurting themselves. To those close to the self-injurer, the behavior is crazy, and improbable. Many believe that this is a performance, a way of begging for attention. In certain instances, that is the truth. However, most self-mutilation is deeper rooted. Still, getting people to go public with the disorder is rare. Self-mutilators believe they are alone in their cutting and that no one will ever understand. Today, one in 250 girls are self-mutilators.

Favazza broke this definition down into three categories: major self-mutilation, stereotypical self-mutilation, and superficial/moderate self-mutilation. Major self-mutilation includes atrocities such as eye enucleation, castration, and limb amputation. Stereotypical self-mutilation relates to repetitious head banging, hitting, and self-biting. Superficial/moderate self-mutilation is the most common and includes cutting, burning, bone breaking, and similar behavior. Self- mutilators injure their skin repeatedly whenever they feel overwhelming, uncontrollable emotion. Afterward, they feel calm and are able to function normally.

The average self-mutilator is a white female, usually in her late twenties whose cutting began around age 14 (Strong 26). The extremes include elderly women with hideous scars covering their arms, legs, and breasts. Men have been known to have cut off their entire testicles. Male self-mutilators usually cut themselves more severely than female. Cutters, the term self-mutilators use for themselves, are usually intelligent, creative, and even popular. Perhaps the most famous cutter was the late Princess Diana. In a television interview she explained, “You have so much pain inside yourself that you try and hurt yourself on the outside because you want help. " According to Andrew Morton author of Diana: Her True Story, the Princess even threw herself down the stairs. Prince Charles blamed it on her melodramatic attention seeking and scorned her as she bled (Strong 19). The whole process was a vicious cycle, even Diana believed her behavior to be begging for attention. In her anger at herself, she harmed herself even more.

The wounds cutters inflict upon themselves give them a sense of control and most of all it releases the pain inside. Before the cuts or burns are administered, the mind of the cutter is in disarray, completely and overwhelmingly panicked. This panic is always accompanied by a sense of “if something isn't done right away, I'll explode inside. " After the cut is made, the self-mutilator feels relief. As the bleeding begins, the internal hysteria is ending. Or so the bleeder believes. The truth is the frenzy within is only postponed until the next episode. The next episode will be more demanding than the last, requiring more damage to ease the self-injurer's mind. As with every kind of abuse, cause by the person themselves, or by another person, each occurrence is worse than the last.

Neglect, abuse, and unhealthy environments are all contributing factors towards self-mutilation. Psychologists often prescribe Prozac to their self-abusing patients. Prozac and other drugs that raise serotonin levels have been proven to reduce cutting in some patients (Strong 108). Unfortunately this approach doesn't work with everyone. Therapy is the most effective way of ceasing self-mutilation. This type of therapy, however, may take many years. The progress is slow and very distressing for the patient, the patient's relatives, and the therapist. Compassion and understanding are imperative when handling a cutter. Labeling their actions as “crazy" or “stupid" could result in another cause for the continuation of the abuse. The patients suffer enough from uneducated diagnoses from the outside world. Those closest to them should become the support and comfort that the mutilator finds in the knife, or match. People need to be informed about this disorder and the symptoms. Cutters should know they are not alone and the people they love should be able to get them help, instead of adding to the problem. Most importantly, we all need to pay attention to each other and listen. It is unbelievable that the cuts of most self-mutilators can keep incrementing and no one notices.


-References from mental health site

Tracey Criswell Wilson is an author on http://www.Writing.Com/ Many of Tracey's writings which include, non-fiction, poetry, prose and many different fiction genres, can be found on this site, which is a site for Creative Writing .


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