Coping with cutting
Numbers are hard to come by, but about 2 million cases of self-injury are reported in the U.S. every year. It can be highly addictive behavior for those who choose to harm themselves.
“Liz” isn’t her real name. She has scars where she used to cut herself with a razor blade, as many as three times a day for seven years.
“I really believe that if I didn’t find self-injury I would have killed myself. I probably would have committed suicide, no doubt,” Liz told Ivanhoe.
At 21, Liz has been in recovery for two years. She learned about self-injury through social media. In middle school, she was bullied, depressed and had no self-esteem. She would lock herself in the bathroom and cut herself with the water running.
“I’d rather feel the pain on my skin than in my heart,” Liz told Ivanhoe.
Finally, after trying to kill herself, Liz sought help.
Lori Vann, MA, LPC-S, a self-injury counselor, told Ivanhoe, “This seems to be epidemic. It is spreading like wildfire.”
Vann has treated Liz and 400 other cases of self-injury. She says up to 20 percent of young people may experience it.
“I think to an extent self-injury is still seen as a taboo issue, that many clinicians are not comfortable working with,” Vann told Ivanhoe.
Signs of self-injury include: scars from cuts or burns, fresh cuts, scratches, bruises, wearing long sleeves in hot weather, spending time alone and statements of hopelessness or worthlessness.
Liz’s mother told Ivanhoe, “I admire her more than anyone in the world.”
Part of Liz’s resolve to avoid a relapse comes from her supportive family. Her mother knows how hard it is for parents to cope.
“Remember they don’t hate you, they hate themselves, and they need your love more now than ever,” Liz’s mother told Ivanhoe.
Today, Liz has a boyfriend and she’s going to college to work in the medical field.
“There is life after recovery and it’s awesome and it’s worth it. It’s all worth it,” Liz told Ivanhoe.
Help is available, so if you know someone who may be suffering with self-injury, try to get them to recognize they are not alone and to seek professional help, for the emotional issues underlying self-injury.