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Main Page....Mental Health...Self-Injury

Who does this, and why

The exact statistics on SI may never be known, because there is so much stigma attached to the behavior. However, it is estimated that 1% of Americans engage in this behavior. That may not sound like a lot, but it is. That's at LEAST two million people in the United States who cannot find a way to ease the internal pain they feel, and so they seek out the knife, the razor blade, the cigarette lighter, or the wall, to help them. That's two million too many.

Self-Injury is not in itself a diagnosis, but it may be found in people who have other "labels". Borderline Personality Disorder is the only psychological disorder which lists "self-mutilation" as one of the possible criteria, but self-injurious behavior doesn't automatically mean that a person has BPD (even if that is a common assumption among less-educated therapists). Self-injury may also be found in patients diagnosed with mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder (a.k.a. manic depression), dissociative disorders, eating disorders, or anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety, panic attacks, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. For more information on these disorders, please see my mental health page.

There are many different reasons why a person might turn to self-harm. Studies have shown that the brain releases endorphins when a person is injured, which may explain the feelings of calmness commonly experienced after self-injury. Some people do it for the pain, either because they feel numb and just want to feel something, or simply to punish themselves. Some are comforted by the sight of their own blood...maybe they weren't allowed to cry when they were younger, and blood has replaced tears for this person, or it is otherwise symbolic somehow of "getting rid of the pain." For people who are victims or survivors of physical or sexual abuse or molestation, it may be a way to "reclaim" their body, a pain that they can control, or a way to stop flashbacks or keep themself from disocciating. It may also be used as a way to release tension when a person feels anxious, angry, scared, stressed out, or any other "negative" emotion.

Skaters especially are subject to a lot of pressure from coaches, judges, parents, their peers, and even themselves. They may turn to SI as a way to cope with all of the stress and anxiety that comes with the sport, if they have no other "outlets" which work for them. I know that when I had a very hard time keeping my own SI under control, it was the worst during the competition season. Now, however, I am learning to use more constructive coping mechanisms to deal with the stress. See my page on stress management for some ideas, or add some of your own.

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