Alternatives to self-harm: sensory and emotional substitutes, Author MissLunaRose12 (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)
We continue our examination of the relationship between child abuse and Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI) or cutting. Up to 79% of those who self-injure report having experienced child abuse [1A].
Because NSSI tends to be a compulsive behavior, professional help is important .
- Adults engaged in cutting should be urged to seek medical and mental health treatment [3A]. Accusations and threats should not, however, be used.
- Young children can initially be assessed by a pediatrician [3B]. Tweens and teens should be encouraged to confide in a parent or trusted adult (a teacher, school counselor, or the like) [3C].
Treatment must be individualized to the patient.
It is essential that the abuse which gave rise to the cutting be addressed [4A]. Emotional abuse and neglect are not always obvious, since they do not lead to physical bruising. Medical professionals working with children must be aware of this.
The person engaged in self-harm – whether child, tween, teen, or adult – must learn healthier coping strategies for stress management [3D].
There are alternatives to cutting . Sensory substitutes include applying an ice cube to the skin, snapping a rubber band on the wrist, intense exercise, cold showers, and listening to loud music. Emotional substitutes include writing on the skin, journaling, creating a unique playlist, and dancing.
Preventive measures include parental training and supervision [4B]. The presence of an empathetic caregiver can aid the child, tween, or teen in better understanding his/her life experiences [1B].
If a supportive family is not available, a supportive social network may buffer children against the potential impact of abuse. A formal support group (in person or virtual) can, also, be helpful [3E].
Since many who self-injure feel lonely and disconnected, improving communication skills can be beneficial [3F].
“Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Ps. 27: 14).
What adults know that children do not is that things can get better. The Bible instructs us to trust God and wait on Him. We can take our worries, sorrow, anger, and frustration to Him. God never abandons us. Nor does He condemn us, if we repent our actions.
That makes cutting unnecessary.
[1A and 1B] Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery, Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR), Cornell University, “The relationship between self-injury and child maltreatment” by Margaret Fleming and Lauren Aronson, http://www.selfinjury.bctr.cornell.edu/perch/resources/the-relationship-between-self-injury-and-child-maltreatmentfinal-1.pdf.
 U Lifeline, “Cutting”, 2020, http://www.ulifeline.org/topics/135-cutting.
[3A through 3F] Mayo Clinic, “Self-injury/cutting”, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/self-injury/symptoms-causes/syc-20350950 and https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/self-injury/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350956.
[4A through 4B] BMC Psychiatry, “The impact of child maltreatment on non-suicidal self-injury: data from a representative sample of the general population” by Rebecca Brown et al, 6/8/18, https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-018-1754-3.
 Focus on the Family, “Truth from the Bible for Cutters: When Feelings ofr Self-Harm Are Strong” by Joannie Debrito PhD, 1/1/19, https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/truth-from-the-bible-for-cutters-when-feelings-for-self-harm-are-strong/.
The signs of NSSI were discussed in Part 1 of this series.
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