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The following are some of the most common questions asked by self-injurers. Should you have a question that you'd like to see answered on this page, please e-mail us at email@example.com.
Q: My friends have challenged me to stop, but it's not working:
Hi. I am a 16 years old girl who has been cutting for the past 6 months. Since I started cutting myself, I have kept a journal of one page that says the number of times I've injured. Each time I make a new injury, I fix the number so i know how many times I've injured since I started.
Only three of my friends know that i hurt myself, and one of them is challenging me to stop for 31 days and if I successfully complete that then for another 31 days, and so on and so forth. But the problem is that when I started my challenge I was doing good . . . then I slipped, so I restarted and slipped again. This is the third time I've restarted my challenge and its going good, but I don't know how much longer I can do this without slipping. I've come close to slipping a few times but haven't and it's very hard not to injure. I have 11 days left of my challenge, and I'm not even sure I complete those 11 days. If I slip again I don't know how bad it will be.
I'm afraid to slip again because last time I slipped it was bad, and I just felt worse because I wasn't able to complete my challenge, and that just made me injure myself even more. I don't know what to do so that I can stop cutting because going "cold turkey" hasn't been working so well. Please help me. Thanks for reading this.
A: I'm not surprised that your friends' challenge you while working temporarily, does not work in the long run. Self- injury is not really the problem, it is a coping strategy. If you don't know how to cope with intense feeling states, then those feelings are going to build until you give in, in an attempt to feel better.
It sounds like you have some wonderful friends who are doing the best they can, but they do not have the expertise to know how to get you through this difficult time.
The good news is that this is a very treatable problem in experienced hands. I hope you
will reach out to people who can help you. Reaching out to me was a good start.
Q: I'm a teenager and my parents and family don't know that I hurt myself and I would like to keep it that way. What can I do to help myself?
A: I'm wondering why you will not tell your parents? Many teens who injure have a fear of telling their parents. Some are afraid that their parents will respond with anger or ridicule, while others fear that their problems will overwhelm parents who they view as fragile. It is possible that parents won't respond in the healthiest manner when they are first told, but this doesn't mean that you have done anything wrong by telling them. If you are afraid of your parents' response, you might want to tell another trusted adult (e.g. school counselor, nurse, teacher, clergy, relative or adult friend) who can help you break the news to your parents. You shouldn't have to deal with your self- injury by yourself, and even if you have great friends who want to help, they are not professionals and do not have the knowledge to help you. Your parents are the ones who can help you get the professional help that you need. If you are afraid to get help because your parents are physically or sexually abusive please tell an adult (e.g. school counselor, police etc.) who can report this to get your family member(s) the help that they need!
Q.: What's wrong with self-injury? It makes me feel better!
A: The true issue is that self-injury is not the real the problem. The real question to ask yourself is, "To feel better from what?" Self-Injury is a coping strategy, but an unhealthy one, similar to putting a band-aid on a festering wound. Unless you understand and work on the underlying cause, it will just keep coming back, which is why most self-injurers keep injuring. It might make you feel better temporarily, but it is not actually helping you to get healthier.
It's best to view an impulse to injure as a "clue" that you are not wanting to "feel or deal"; that is, to feel an uncomfortable feeling such as anger or sadness, or to deal with a difficult situation.
Q: Am I crazy??
A: Some self-injurers may suffer from disorders of:
- Mood (Depression, Bi-Polar)
- Personality (Borderline, Narcissistic, Histrionic, Dependent etc.)
- Thought (Dissociation etc.)
However, many if not most self-injurers will learn healthier coping strategies and will go on to live healthy and productive lives.
Q: Is Self-Injury an addiction?
A: Self-Injurers clearly report experiencing some addictive qualities such as:
- An immediate sense of calm or "numbing"
- A need for increased amounts to get the same effect
- A continuation of the behavior despite negative interpersonal consequences
- A fixation on the behavior to the exclusion of other pleasurable activities
Q: I'm an adult self-injurer, I thought this was a teenage problem!
A: This is a misconception held by many. While self-injury generally begins in childhood or adolescence, it can persist well into adulthood and even old age. Some people even first begin the behavior as an adult.
Q: I'm a guy. I thought that mainly girls did this. Is there something wrong with me?
A: Professionals used to believe that far more females engage in self-injurious behaviors than males, that is because all the early data collected on self-injury was on clinical populations. Recent research on non clinical populations such as high school and college students shows that almost equal numbers of males and females engage in self-injurious behaviors. However, more females enter treatment, but we don't as of yet, know why this discrepancy exists.
Q: If I give up self-injury, will I be okay? I'm afraid if I give up self-injury I won't survive!
A: This is a common fear for many self-injurers. Self-injury helps people to feel better, so the fear is that without it they will suffer unbearable emotional pain. The key is to learn to accept and deal with all one's feeling and then self-injury becomes unnecessary.
Q: What am I supposed to do when I have an impulse to self-injure?
A: It is important to recognize that impulses to self-injure are actually "clues" that you don't want to feel or deal with something. Many people who injure are afraid to feel specific emotions such as fear and anger. The goal is to learn to identify those feelings and understand and face the fears you have about those emotions.