Cutting and Self-Injury
Self-Injury refers to the intentional infliction of bodily injury without the intent of committing suicide. Self-injury is also referred to as self-harm, self-mutilation, cutting, deliberate self-harm, or para-suicidal behavior. Self-injury is the act of intentionally harming one’s own body, most commonly through cutting or burning oneself. It is typically an effort to cope with overwhelming emotions, such as feelings of intense emptiness, anger, anxiety or frustration. It is differentiated from socially acceptable cultural or artistic rituals or practices, such as tattooing or piercing (though there can be some overlap when there is an compulsive aspect to these behaviors).
Most who engage in self-injurious behaviors such as cutting describe a temporary sense of relief or calm, or a release of tension. This is usually short-lived, and is often followed by shame and guilt about the behavior, as well as the return of the painful emotions that underlie the self-injury. It is often done impulsively and may accompany a variety of psychological issues, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, borderline personality or dissociative disorders.
There is no single reason that explains why people engage in self-injurious behavior. The constellation of emotions that may trigger self-injury is complex. Generally there is an inability to cope in healthy ways with deep psychological pain, and self-injury provides a temporary sense of control over an otherwise uncontrollable situation. When one feels profound psychological emptiness, cutting and other forms of self-injury provide a way to feel something, even if it is physical pain. It is also a way to express one’s distress and despair as a self-punishing act or sometimes, a cry for help. Some self-injurers describe cutting as a way to have control over their body that is otherwise lacking. Others feel it is a way to make physical or real, a deep emotional wound.