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Self Harm - Ways to Help the Cutter

Updated on December 23, 2015
The Scars of a Young Painful Life
The Scars of a Young Painful Life

Help for Self Injury

A colleague told me her 18 year old son was cutting himself and why, she asked, was he doing this - because, he said, it makes me feel good.

How heart breaking to find that someone you love is hurting so badly and has no other way to express the range of deep, anxious emotion, depression or frustration, except to harm himself.

Whether the wounds are deep or only slight, is not a measure of the conflict inside the person. The problem the cuts or scratches represent, however, should be taken extremely seriously.

In trying to understand, be there for her and use my counseling skills to be of concrete help, I decided to research the problem and what I found so affected me that I had to write about it, hoping that I can help someone, somewhere to seek help.

I suggested she make an appointment for her son with a psychiatrist immediately, as medication is usually needed to stabilise the person and make them strong enough to work on their problems.

A Growing Problem in America and the U.K.

Some of the pictures I saw of cutting were horrifying.

Sites such as Tumblr are blocking the pictures of cutting, and the blogs encouraging the cutting experience. One viewer asked the lady displaying cutting pictures of herself and others on her blog, why she did this - her answer, “I do it, I suppose, to know I’m not alone, I’m not a freak, that there are others like me out there.

It breaks your heart, the cuts are deep and can be anywhere on the body, not normally seen, such as top of thighs, stomach, upper arms and the inside of the wrists. The cuts are usually done with razor blades, the frightening thing is that suggestions were posted as to where you should cut, how to cut with a scissors, and how to cut without hurting. It seems cutters need to see blood flowing in order to get relief and feel the pain through their numbness.

People who self-harm can burn themselves, pull their hair, bash the heads against the wall - all to feel the pain which lets them know they are alive.

Yes there is so much more to life - Please ask for Help!
Yes there is so much more to life - Please ask for Help!

The Different Parts of Self Harm and Help You Can Receive

Anxiety and depression are not the same, although they do share similar elements. Whilst depressed people feel overwhelmed by daily tasks and personal relationships, anxiety produces fear and panic where most people would not feel threatened.

Anxiety and depression disorder can restrict your ability to work, maintain relationships or even to leave your home.

A prescription for anti-depression medication and/or tranquilisers will most likely be given by the psychiatrist. More than likely a strong suggestion to see a clinical psychologist, which must be the patients’ choice, to help the person see, fight and finally exorcise the trigger to self-harm.

Although exorcise is not the right word, I feel the emotions that would drive someone to physically hurt themselves to relieve the pain they feel is demonic. However, unfortunate that connotation may be, the mere label gives one the clue that yes, this can be fought and won!

There are plenty of people out there who want to help you.

If you have experienced so much pain in your life that you hurt yourself to deal with your emotions, you may doubt you can effectively deal with them in another way.

You will move forward, grieve over what you have lost in your childhood and work through what scared you, enraged you and let the pain come to the surface.

A professional will listen and help you manage your feelings in a different way. If you don’t find your GP understanding, go to another until your find one who will treat you with respect. Their ignorance is not your fault, you deserve to be listened to.

If your self-harm is severe you may need psychiatric care, and in an emergency taken into hospital. Should staff label you, make snap judgements and offer medication rather than spend time looking for the underlying causes of your distress speak to a friend, relative or another professional to ensure you receive what you need.

What to expect from a visit to a good Doctor

Helping Yourself

• Start cognitive behaviour therapy for yourself, realise that self knowledge is power. Make notes of your own behaviour and what specific thoughts or actions make you feel that you need to harm yourself.

Keep notes daily of events and feeling and write down how you cope or channel your powerful emotions. This diary will help you, and your therapist reach your goals.

• Try to talk to a supportive person, you are not alone, and there are others who understand your pain. A support group could strengthen your resolve to change your life.

• Work on building your self-esteem, you are a worthwhile person and your self-injury is an expression of powerful negative feelings. Write down positive statements about yourself, or the world around you, list affirming statements referring to where you want to be.

An example would be “I will get better, because I want and deserve to Live, Laugh and Love again.” Keep these in a place they are visible.

• Physical activity, healthy eating, plenty of sleep are all known to boost low moods and lift self esteem.

• Ensure you keep close telephone numbers of friends or help lines should you need to talk to someone.

• Think about what you do with your anger. If you weren’t so angry with yourself, to whom would you direct your anger? Who are the people that make you feel like this? Remind yourself that you do not deserve punishment for what others have done to you, you deserve good things in life.

• Don’t hurt yourself by punching doors or walls when you are frustrated, grab a couple of hefty cushions and punch the living daylights out of those.

• Create something, whatever lifts you out of your pain and makes you feel happy is creative. Make a meal, bake biscuits, draw or paint, build a model, plant a vegetable or flower garden, make a fish pond. Help others, go to the community centre and help children to play, or teach them something or read to the elderly - helping others makes you feel warm and generous.

My wish for You - Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much
My wish for You - Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much

Friends and Family - how can they help?

It is difficult for the person who loves someone who is self-harming to cope with their feelings of shock, anger, guilt, sadness and helplessness.

Affirm that they and their body are worth caring about by paying attention to their injuries, acknowledge how difficult they are finding life and by showing you want to help will matter a great deal.

Gently encourage an examination of their feelings, and why they hurt themselves, these things may be hard for you to hear but don’t blame them, keeping uncritical will help the feelings of acceptance and care to strengthen, and reinforce their sense of self-worth.

This defence mechanism cannot be dismantled easily, it takes time for them to know their emotions won’t destroy them.

Each person needs to find their own strength and healing methods to live by.

There isn’t an easy answer, it is a complex disorder with many paths such as depression, or an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia, abuse either physical, mental or emotional which culminates in the physical act of cutting or self-harm.

Individuals should not accept a simplistic answer to such a devastating disorder.

 Depression in itself remains a complicated, complex disorder which can include many factors such as personal, biological, genetic, societal and environmental causes. 

Anxiety could be caused in part by a malfunction of brain chemistry, and one suffers from fear itself, even when no threat exists. Chronic anxiety is like being stalked by an imaginary tiger and the feeling of being in danger never goes away.

A good professional will help you find your way back to love. Learn to love yourself first, you have to believe you are worthwhile, and look after your body it has so much living to do, and so much fun is waiting out there for you to come along and find it!


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    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 4 years ago

      Jennifer Bart. Thank you so much for visiting. I did look in on your hub and am looking forward to reading and learning from you.

    • Jennifer Bart profile image

      Jennifer Bart 4 years ago from Texas

      Thank you for writing on this article as someone who has struggled with cutting it was very refreshing to see it being written about. The article itself was very well organized very thoughtful, informative and well written.

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 5 years ago

      Kimberly, thank you for stopping by, will read your hub and that is good info for those who suffer from cutting.

    • profile image

      kimberlyslyrics 5 years ago

      fabulous hub girl, check out my henna treatments for cutters if you want, it cured me after 30 years, with a tooooon of therapy of course

      you rock!

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 5 years ago

      DDE, thanks for the vote!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      A well explained Hub!! A vote up

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 5 years ago

      Caseyjoe870 - Thank you for visiting and the comment!

    • Caseyjoe870 profile image

      Caseyjoe870 5 years ago from Arkansas

      Great hub! Thank you for taking the time to put this piece together. Amazing!

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 5 years ago

      Thank you sadie-423. I am a great believer in talking about problems and bringing them out in the open, the first good point being that the person realises they are not alone, secondly, problems are far less aggressive in the fresh air!!

    • sadie423 profile image

      sadie423 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Great information! As a former cutter I think this is an important topic to talk about so there is less judgement and more support for healing

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 5 years ago

      Thank you ksinll, appreciate you stopping by, will return the favour!

    • profile image

      ksinll 5 years ago

      Good insight!