Cutting and self-mutilation among teen girls has grown to into an epidemic.
Most girls cut their arms and thighs and have said it is not about taking their life. Armando Favazza, MD, professor and vice chairman of psychiatry at the University of Missouri, author of Bodies Under Siege: Self-Mutilation in Psychiatry and Culture and a leading authority on the subject, believes that self-mutilation is the opposite of suicide. He said, "Those who do it want to live. They do it to feel better. It's an impulsive act done to regulate mood."
Teens have said it is a way to release tension and pain. Many have learned this behavior from other girls either at school on in residential treatment programs.
What Can Happen to People Who Cut? "Although cutting may provide some temporary relief from a terrible feeling, even people who cut agree that it isn't a good way to get that relief. For one thing, the relief doesn't last. The troubles that triggered the cutting remain — they're just masked over."
The Teens Help website offers suggestion for getting help:
There are better ways to deal with troubles than cutting — healthier, long-lasting ways that don't leave a person with emotional and physical scars. The first step is to get help with the troubles that led to the cutting in the first place. Here are some ideas for doing that:
People who have stopped cutting often say the first step is the hardest — admitting to or talking about cutting. But they also say that after they open up about it, they often feel a great sense of relief. Choose someone you trust to talk to at first (a parent, school counselor, teacher, coach, doctor, or nurse). If it's too difficult to bring up the topic in person, write a note.
Identify the trouble that's triggering the cutting.
Cutting is a way of reacting to emotional tension or pain. Try to figure out what feelings or situations are causing you to cut. Is it anger? Pressure to be perfect? Relationship trouble? A painful loss or trauma? Mean criticism or mistreatment? Identify the trouble you're having, then tell someone about it. Many people have trouble figuring this part out on their own. This is where a mental health professional can be helpful.
Ask for help.
Tell someone that you want help dealing with your troubles and the cutting. If the person you ask doesn't help you get the assistance you need, ask someone else. Sometimes adults try to downplay the problems teens have or think they're just a phase. If you get the feeling this is happening to you, find another adult (such as a school counselor or nurse) who can make your case for you.
Work on it.
Most people with deep emotional pain or distress need to work with a counselor or mental health professional to sort through strong feelings, heal past hurts, and to learn better ways to cope with life's stresses. One way to find a therapist or counselor is to ask at your doctor's office, at school, or at a mental health clinic in your community.
Although cutting can be a difficult pattern to break, it is possible. Getting professional help to overcome the problem doesn't mean that a person is weak or crazy. Therapists and counselors are trained to help people discover inner strengths that help them heal. These inner strengths can then be used to cope with life's other problems in a healthy way.
Teens talk about cutting "from a teen's perspective."