Can’t stand Morressy, but still find yourself drawn to the shiny edge of a razor-blade? Never fear, you’re not alone. Despite the alarmist news reports, cutting is not some cultural crisis on the brink of overtaking the next generation. Sure, a moody teenager is more likely to show off an artful armful of scabs or post photos of such on their Tumblr page, but cutting has been with us for as long as humans have experienced stress, frustration and emotional pain, which is pretty much forever. That said, self-injury is a real and present concern for 1% of the population and therefore deserves a closer look.
While there is evidence of “social” cutting, which may be influenced by peers or an attempt to gain acceptance into a particular subculture, the majority of those who self-harm in this manner, do so despite rather than because of social norms. Habitual cutters sporting extensive scars are much less likely to play show and tell. And most serious cutting is confined to parts of the body less likely to be seen by the general public. While the forearm is perhaps the most convenient and accessible canvas, many cutters prefer the secrecy of the thigh or abdomen.
Though it may seem counter-intuitive, the act of cutting is most often a method of relieving frustration, emotional pain or anger. They body’s physiological response to pain is to release adrenaline and endorphins, often producing a sense of well-being or calm. Also, by focusing their energy and attention on the superficial pain, a cutter can experience momentary relief from deeper emotional pain. In nearly every case, cutting is not “The Problem” but a symptom of a larger underlying issue which has gone untreated for too long.
Contrary to expectation, long-term cutters tend to be overachievers, intelligent and driven in their career or scholarly pursuits. For them, cutting is much the same as the self-medicating of those who drink or use drug as a way to manage and mitigate emotional or psychological pain. The act of cutting is seen as a positive action in a situation where the cutter feels otherwise powerless.
Cognitive therapy, with a focus on the underlying issues leading to the self-harming behavior can be helpful for many. Some have learned to cope with the urge to cut in imaginative ways. Getting tattoos and other body modifications can provide some of the same physiological relief that cutting does and many cutters have covered or adorned old scars with ink. While these adornments can be viewed as further mutilation in some circles, they are generally considered to be more socially acceptable and less dangerous than an affair with the edge of the blade. Overall, cutting is generally not life-threatening but the issues which drive one to seek the release it offers can sometimes be.
Author Byline: Kristen Bright is a blogger for Instant Checkmate. To find more of her writing, follow the Instant Checkmate LinkedIn Profile or contribute to the Instant Checkmate CrunchBase Page.