You bleed just to know you're alive.
~~ Goo Goo Dolls,
Warning: This page may be triggering and there are no further spoilers or warnings. Please make yourself safe before
continuing. Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and these pages are not a
substitute for professional help.
[What?] [Why?] [Who?]
[Help For Self-Injurers]
I drew the blade across my wrist to see how it would feel.
I looked into the future, there was nothing to reveal.
~~ Strawbs, Round and Round
What is Self-Injury?
Self-injury is deliberately hurting oneself without intent to commit
suicide. It is also called self-harming, delicate cutting, cutting, and
is abbreviated SI or SIB (self-injurous behavior). Other names for it,
such as self-mutilation and self-abuse, are considered too blaming or innacurate by many and
some self-injurers don't like the terms. The term "cutters" leaves out other self-injurers who burn or pick and so won't be used on this page.
Self-injury takes many forms. Cutting the skin with razors, knives,
broken glass or other sharp objects is by far the most common. Burning,
breaking bones, head banging, bruising, hitting, scratching, and biting
are other ways people self-injure. Some self-injurers stick to one means of self-injure, others may have several, or change over time, and some will self-injure with whatever way is handiest. Some self-injury is ritualistic. Often, the means of self-injury is motivated by the need for self-injury (i.e. someone wants to see blood, so they cut).
I have spent nights with matches and knives,
leaning over ledges only two flights up.
Cutting my heart, burning my soul, nothing left to hold.
Nothing left but the blood and the fire.
~~ Indigo Girls, "Blood and Fire"
Why People Self Injure
Self-injury is associated with many mental disorders, but not only the mentally ill self-injure. People may SI
because they feel too much, they feel too little, they need a
distraction, they want to punish themselves, they can't express what
they're feeling, they need a release, a feeling of control, they need the escape, they want a
feeling of euphoria, they want to make their body as "scarred" as their
spirit, they want to affirm they're alive, they want to make their pain visible, body disillusionment and many other reasons. There
is often more than one reason a person self-injures, and the reason they do so may change with their mood or over time. Self-injury can also be addictive, particularly since pain causes the body to release endorphines.
All of these reasons can be summarized by saying people self-injury because they lack other, healthier coping strategies. While other people may cry or write or talk to someone about how they feel, self-injurers can't do so, or for them, these things are not enough. Self-injury happens when the person's pain and stress outweighs their available ways of coping.
Wisdom is scar tissue in disguise.
Many people, all sorts of people. Business persons, students, teens, adults, women, men, religious people, successful people, married, single, artists, healthy people, sick people, and many others.
Women statistically self-injure more than men do, mostly because men are more likely to externalize their pain, taking it out on other people or inanimate objects, while women tend to internalize it.
People who self-injure sometimes, but not always, were abused at some point in their lives. It's important not to generalize. Self-injurers may also have been invalidated (their emotions, actions, or their self were treated as untrue or worthless, or they were punished or trivialized). This can cause an inability to properly express or feel emotions, and they need a release, regardless, so they may turn to self-injury. People who self-injure may suffer from mental disorders or illnesses such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders or borderline personality disorder. However, not everyone fits this mold.
Somebody get me out of here, I'm tearing at myself.
Nobody gives a damn about me, or anybody else.....
~~ Garbage, Medication
Help for Self-Injurers
Feeling the urge right now? Match *why* to this list and try these alternatives:
What to do RIGHT NOW instead of SI
If you SI, it may be a good idea to seek the help of your doctor or someone you trust. A professional can help you stay safe and explore possible reasons you self-injure, and new coping strategies to replace it. There is no shame in seeing a therapist or being on medication to control diseases like depression.
If you hurt yourself and think you may need stitches or that the care is out of your abilities, go to the ER immediately. Don't be ashamed!! A self-injurer should be very aware of first-aid and safety procedures.
The following pages are very important for a self-injurer to read. They are about your rights as someone who self-injures or suffers from mental illness. It may be useful to print out (particularly the first one) and keep with other important information like what meds you're on, so it can be taken if you go to the ER. From experience, people who SI may be treated differently, no matter what they go to the doctor for. It is your right to be treated fairly.
Bill of Rights for Those who Self-Harm
Mental Health Bill of Rights
National Alliance of the Mentally Ill
How will you know I am hurting,
If you cannot see my pain?
To wear it on my body
Tells what words cannot explain.
~~ C. Blount
I do not recommend asking someone to stop before they're ready, quitting cold turkey, or "no-harm contracts" (used by some therapists). Because self-injury is a coping device, and because it is one that arises because the person has no other methods of dealing with things, these methods usually don't work, and may even cause more harm than good. If a person's only way of coping is taken away, they may collapse under the pressure. Many self-injurers say they SI so they won't do something worse.
Concentrating on quitting (counting days, support groups and similar) may work for some. However, for many others, the best way to quit self-injuring is to concentrate on controlling self-injury (so as to limit the danger, and gain charge of the situation) and then working on developing new, healthier coping strategies. When a person has better coping strategies, they no longer need to SI. They may have to struggle with quitting if they've become addicted, but such an addiction is easier to handle when a person has other coping resources to help them deal with it.
You must also be ready to quit. There is no shame if you're not, or if you don't want to. Try to keep yourself safe. Know first aid, use clean, disinfected sharps, and gain control of your self-injury (such as not cutting too deep or more than a certain number of times in day) as it can escalate (more stimulus is needed for the same effect).
My words trickle down from a wound that I have no intention to heal.
~~ Paul Simon, "Blessed"
There are also several online support groups that can help out with the urges. Keep in mind that sometimes support groups can keep you in a mindset that is condusive to SI. Avoid, if possible, groups that seem "competetive" (I feel worse than you and I can hurt myself worse than you do), people who are emotional black-mailers, or groups that just don't feel right to you.
Emotional blackmail is like a guilt trip, or whenever someone uses your emotions to manipulate you. For example, someone might say, "Oh, no one ever pays attention to me. I should leave." or "If you don't talk to me, I'll hurt myself." Emotional blackmail is common in abusive relationships, such as, "If you don't have sex with me, that means you don't love me." This is not the same as if someone asks for help, such as requesting you stay with them so they feel safe and can't self-injure. Watch out for emotional blackmail!
You're Not Alone is probably the best site about SI on the net, any questions you can imagine are answered there. It is also the home of the Bodies Under Siege (BUS) mailing list, where you can find support from fellow self-injurers. This page is maintained by Deb/Sine Nomine.
SI is an online group of self-injurers who are always willing to lend an ear. Discussion is in message board or mailing list form.
Safety for SIers This new group is aimed at younger male and female SIers as well as educating non-SIers and contains poetry, information, lyrics and more.
The great art of life is sensation, to feel that we exist, even in pain.
~~ Lord Byron
i hurt myself today
Depression and Self-Mutilation
Self-Injury Information and Resources
Self-Mutilation in Psychiatry
Soul's Self-Help Resources (some Self-Injury links)
Alone -- Secret Shame
to see if i still feel
i focus on the pain
the only thing that's real
the needle tears a hole
the old familiar sting
try to kill it all away
but i remember everything
My Experience with SI
I self-injured for many years and for many reasons, stemming from anxiety disorders, dissociative problems, and depression. Mostly I cut and burned, but would use whatever was handy, sometimes. I have a lot of scars. I couldn't wear short sleeves until more than a year after quitting because of the scars my arms and am still self-conscious about them. I never wear bathing suits, so even those closest to me have never seen the ones on my thighs.
I tried to quit many times. I'd go three, four days, then SI again. Once I went six months, but then started up again worse than before. But finally, in spring of 2000, I conquered self-injury. My success was a combination of many things. First, I had made up my mind. I was ready to quit. I had many reasons; I was tired of the scars, I was tired of hiding, of the shame I felt, and of it dominating my life. I realized I was stronger than the need to SI, and I didn't want to anymore. Both were key in quitting. Second, I had developed better coping resources -- things that worked better than or as well as self-injury, with fewer drawbacks and consequences. I had enough coping strategies to deal with my pain and stress without self-injury.
I used "art over action" -- drawing instead of SI -- and writing, using a big heavy pen and writing hard, aggressively on the paper, until the mood passed. I had friends I trusted and could talk to, and a therapist, and other ways of communicating things that bothered me, and I had outside support. Anything that's a natural release of emotions, such as crying or writing, helps a little.
It was a slow process and hard work. It was worth it.
Cut my life into pieces
I've reached my last resort
Suffocation, no breathing
Don't give a f*ck if I cut my arm bleeding
Do you even care if I die bleeding
Would it be wrong would it be right
If I took my life tonight
Chances are that I might
Mutilation out of sight
And I'm contemplating suicide
Cause I'm losing my sight, losing my mind
Wish somebody would tell me I'm fine
Losing my sight, losing my mind
Wish somebody would tell me I'm fine
~~ Papa Roach, "Last Resort"