self-mutilation is the practice of abusing oneself by cutting, burning, picking, hitting.. the list goes on. some self-mutilators will hurt themselves with any means possible, others will stick with one way of coping. i will refer to all of these behaviors as simply "cutting" on this page, for no other reason than that's what i'm comfortable with.

a lot of people have misconceptions about cutting and self-mutilation. getting a piercing or a tattoo is not a sign that someone is a self-abuser (although i'm sure getting a piercing or tattoo can be enjoyable). many people think that cutting is just something that people do for attention. cutting is common among girls in their teens (about 1 in 200 teenage girls cut), a time when most girls have a lot of emotional "trouble". if a teenage girl cuts, she may or may not be searching for attention, but her peers may jump to conclusions because they don't know how else to react. some people may be trying to build that dark, mysterious, depressed reputation, in which case they may cut for attention. i've also seen it become a trend, usually in younger girls who are definately just trying to fit in or get some kind of attention.

cutters often internalize their emotions without releasing their sadness or anger (or whatever other feeling) in any way until they feel completely overwhelmed and like they're about to explode, a feeling of "mental disintegration...inability to think." cutting is the way they deal with all of this emotion, slicing open their skin and bleeding out the pain until they feel their emotions have calmed.

the following information is from cutting : understanding and overcoming self-mutilation bysteven levenkron

the cutter is often a white woman, middle class of above average intelligence who began cutting herself in adolescence. she has low self-esteem and may suffer from bouts of depression. she has trouble relating to people and forming intimate relationships. despite her smarts and education, she has an extremely hard time articulating her thoughts and feelings and a seemingly insatiable need for love and acceptance. because she did not internalize positive nurturing skills from her parents, she does not take very good care of herself and feels that she is too bad a person "to deserve comforts or luxuries."

the cutter is someone who experiences herself as powerless. she may not be docile, timid or shy in public; she may even be quite outgoing. but no matter how outgoing or confident she seems, she feels alone wherever she is, different from everyone around her, an outsider. she is often plagued by a fear of punishment - usually from a parent - for being deficient, inadequate, a disappointment in a way that was either specifically defined for her, or one that is unspoken but understood."

like the anorexic, she may feel that she has no one to depend upon or trust with her emotions. that feeling alone will produce fearfulness most of the time, even when there is no immediate cause to fear. so, what we know about this person is that she is afraid, and she may hide behind obsessional thinking or eating disorders as well as self-mutilation to gain relief from her constant state of fear. she is seeking all the relief she can find from her fearfulness. often, she is a high achiever in some area, whether it is in academics, the arts, or athletics. at the same time, she may ignore (and usually does) subjects that don't interest her. her school record may fluctuate from a's to f's.

she is often apologetic even when she has done nothing to apologize for. she is fearful of what she sees as the imminent danger or resentment others will feel toward her. sometimes, her frequent gratuitous apologies steming from this fear will annoy and alienate those friends closest to her. she may interpret their withdrawl as an indication that she has been offensive or not apologetic enough and increase the very behavior that repels those around her. still, she is a person generally liked by her peer group, who may identify on a very small scale with her vulnerability, a vulnerability that most of them are also experiencing to a lesser degree."

the self-mutilator has a history of being hurt, harmed or molested. when this is the case, mistrust is her security. she will constantly look for opportunities to mistrust helpers. she often invites harming behavior from her helpers thus confirming her need to mistrust them, as well as her need to hide and protect herself from those who seek to help her. she may do this in a passive manner by not talking during therapy sessions. seeming to daydream in order to escape any connection with her therapist, she is in fact constantly testing. her need to protect herself from others by mistrusting them could frustrate the less than determined helper. life has taught the self-harmer not to trust anyone, or in less severe cases, to be extremely wary. she will set up many tests for a person to pass before taking even a limited chance to risk such trust.

"i would have watched the blood run down my arm, even stain my clothes. i would have wanted to take a bath in my blood. i would have cleaned it up and concealed it afterward to avoid getting caught."

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