"She’s been wearing long sleeves even when it's really hot."
"She refuses to go swimming even though it was her favourite summer activity."
"He stays in his room most of the time and spends longer than usual in the bathroom."
"She's sensitive, moody and gets very angry, very quickly."
There is no single simple reason to explain why someone cuts, but almost everyone who does it is going through some sort of emotional pain. Self harming is a way of coping that gives a little relief from anxiety, a sense of control amidst chaos.
Sometimes people do it because they think it's cool, or their friends are doing it. Sometimes they do it because they see it online and want to post their own photos.
A sign of trouble
Cutting might also be caused by a range of other issues, like bad grades, school stress, bullying or feeling unable to cope with what is happening in their lives.
But it is not as harmless as it seems. There could be serious problems if the wound becomes infected. It can lead to permanent scarring.
It can also be a warning sign of much more serious emotional problems.
Self-injury typically is not meant as a suicide attempt. But, if you or your friend are self-harming, you need help. If you feel you can't talk to your parents, you need to talk to a teacher, social worker or someone from a support group like Kely Support Group.
You can also talk to your doctor or school nurse.
People say that before they self-harm they feel either a sense of numbness inside, which is uncomfortable, or they feel a ball of emotions and don't know what to do with them.
Cutting or other ways of self-injury, such as burning, piercing and multiple tattoos, all relieve these feelings - for a short time.
Then they go through a lot of bad feelings, like guilt, shame and fear. And the pain from before is still there because they have not found a way to deal with it. This can lead to the vicious cycle of self-harm.
There is no one-size-fits-all kind of treatment for someone who cuts themself. But if they reach out for help, they can expect to get some sort of therapy that will get to the cause of all of the emotional pain. They might need to take medication. They will learn better ways of coping with such intense feelings.
Make a plan
Creating a crisis plan of things to do when in such a frame of mind will also be helpful. This can include:
- Someone to call or talk to when one is feeling like they might cut
- Activities, such as walking or listening to music to engage in to distract oneself, so the impulse to self-harm passes
- Having a crisis number at hand
There are free smart phone apps available to help with a safety plan.