It appears that there are a plethora of websites dedicated for the instruction and glorification of self-inflicted behaviors (SIB). One research study examined 100 videos on the internet regarding SIB and found that there were 2 million hits on some of these websites. 80 percent of these videos had no viewer restrictions. 58 percent had no warning of content. The question stands, “Do these types of websites glorify and encourage self-abuse?” With the amount of activity on these websites, it would seem that non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) has developed a cult following.
Here are some facts about NSSI:
1. Cutting and burning usually occurs in adolescent females with the average age of 16.
2. The cutting and burning usually occurs on arms, legs and torso. These areas are easily covered by bracelets and clothing.
3. There is a greater incidence of SIB leading to intentional suicide.
4. Those who self-abuse have a higher incidence of sexual trauma, mood disorders, physical abuse and neglect history.
5. Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS) have been associated with SIB.
6. Alcohol, marijuana and other forms of drug use have been linked to self-abuse.
7. Cutting is common among friends.
The reasons kids cut themselves vary. Sometimes this deliberate self-harm is related to emotional pain, intense anger and frustration. It is an inappropriate coping mechanism but it causes an immediate emotional release that is quickly followed by guilt or shame. The feeling to cut is an impulse control behavior issue. There is an addictive element regarding this behavior probably due to the released feeling when cut. That is why it is habitual. Many children who suffer from self-abuse have depression, loneliness, eating disorders, anxiety issues and obsessive compulsive disorder. Some literature has mentioned that these behaviors can be attention seeking but I feel that if attention is needed than that in itself may be a cry for help.
Studies have shown that primary care providers do not even ask the child questions regarding self-abuse. It is usually discovered by family, friends and coaches. Here are some signs that may suggest SIB:
1. Scars from burns or cuts.
2. Fresh cuts or scratches.
3. Wearing long sleeves or pants when weather conditions warrant lighter clothing.
4. Wearing thick bracelets to cover wrists.
5. Claiming frequent accidents in order to substantiate the wound(s).
Treatment will require evaluation from a mental health care provider. The treatment will be tailored to the individual since there are many different reasons for cutting. Stress management, self-esteem improvement and treatment for depression are a main staple in the recovery process. Hospital admission may be required for a more intense crisis. Day treatment programs are also popular.
Accompanying this article is Harvard University research findings about NSSI.
If you know someone who cuts, please get them the help needed because this risky behavior can develop into more risky behaviors. Stay well.