I am one of the estimated 5% (not including eating disorders which is also a form of self injury) of Americans who struggle with self-injury. I have been self-injury free for about one year except for my eating disorder and unintentional non-compliance with physican orders. But, the daily urge to cut, burn or bruise is not there anymore. Sure, there are "good" day and "bad" days. I used to think about all the time, but not anymore. It was kind of like Muzak because that is what it is all the time with the volume turned up, at times.
It is called self-injury, self-harm, self-injury; whatever, you name it is one of the most misunderstood behaviors associated with mental illness. But, I share my struggles with celebrities who at one time or another self-injured including Fiona Apple, Brody Dalle, Johnny Depp, Richey Edwards, Colin Farrell, Jessicka Fodera, Kelly Holmes, Angelina Jolie, Alfred Kinsey, Courtney Love, Marilyn Manson, Princess Diana, Shirley Manson, Christina Ricci, Amy Studt, Sid Vicious and Amy Winehouse to name a few. These names were confirmed by self-injury.net.
This came from Live Journal and it nicely sums up those who self-injure...
"We are male and female. We are artists, athletes, students, and business owners. We have depression, DID, PTSD, eating disorders, borderline personalities, bipolar disorder, or maybe no formal diagnosis at all. Some of us were abused, some were not. We are straight, bi, and gay. We come from all walks of life and can be any age. We are every single race or religion that you can possibly think of. Our common link is this: We are in pain. We self-injure. And we are not freaks."
Self-injury is an addiction. According to FirstSIGNS, self-injury is defined as...
“Self-injury is any deliberate, non suicidal behaviour that inflicts physical harm on your body and is aimed at relieving emotional distress. Physical pain is often easier to deal with than emotional pain, because it causes 'real' feelings. Injuries can prove to an individual that their emotional pain is real and valid. Self-injurious behaviour may calm or awaken a person. Yet self-injury only provides temporary relief, it does not deal with the underlying issues. Self-injury can become a natural response to the stresses of day to day life and can escalate in frequency and severity.”
Types of self-injury include, but is not limited to cutting, burning, poisoning, bruising, overdosing, carving words or symbols on the skin, breaking of bones, hitting or punching oneself, piercing the skin with sharp objects, head banging, pinching, biting, pulling out hair and interfering with wound.
Personally, I have cut, burned and bruised myself. It is a part of my expression of self-hatred. I have some scared, but the cutting ones do not show. I have hidden the marks even from my husband. What I experience is that I usually do this to release the tension of intense feelings or agitation and to make the thoughts go away. It brings a sense of calm. That is where the addition cycle comes in because it releases endorphins, but then I feel guilty and ashamed…and there the cycle starts. It is an ADDICTION!!
Most people start in adolesence. However, the first instance may occur much earlier. My first instance was when I was four or five. It reached its peak when I was in my mid-twenties and almost forty years later I still struggle. I was able to stop for a few years. I am injury free right now!!
I believe mine started as a way to deal with my sexual abuse other abuse, my emotions being unacceptable and watching other be out of control, domestic violence and chaos completely surrounding my childhood.
I was doing well for about five years. But, when my grandfather passed away, I started again. At one point, work and therapy became so stressful that I was cutting 4-5 times per day just to get through work because I started to have flashbacks of my abuse.
What other reasons do people self-injure? Communication, self-expression of emotions, release and relief from intolerable distress, having a sense of control over one's emotions and environment, a cry for help, defense against emotional pain, self punishment, self hatred, expression of thoughts and feelings that are difficult to express.
A few words of advice, please don't tell me to "just stop." You may think that is helpful or that will solve everthing. I put incredible pressure to stop...more than anyone else. By telling me to "just stop," it makes me feel like I'm a bad person which leads to more self-injure. I need to learn coping mechanisms, how to express myself appropriately and how to love myself. But, then everything won't just be fine..there are many underlying issues, so self-injury is my way of defending against that which I never wanted to deal with in the first place. Also, do not get into power struggles with me it makes me feel less in control. Self-injury like eating disorders are a form of control.
To obtain other information including how to help a loved one please look at the links in this article or do an Internet search. There is a lot of information out there. I hope this article caused you to look at self-injury in a different light and HOPE both for those who do this and for those who don’t.