Tag Archives: Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI)

Abuse and Cutting, Part 2

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].

Intervention/Treatment

Because NSSI tends to be a compulsive behavior, professional help is important [2].

  • 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.

Alternatives

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 [5].  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. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse

Abuse and Cutting, Part 1

Healed scars from prior self-harm, Author James Heilman, MD (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

Mental health issues including drug abuse and suicide are known to be long-term consequences of child abuse [1A][3].  Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI), more commonly known as cutting, is another [1B][4A].

Definition

NSSI is defined as the deliberate damaging of the surface of the skin – whether by scratching, cutting, piercing, or burning – but without suicidal intent [1C][2A].

“After I’d seen the blood, it was like a release of anger or some sort of release.  I can’t really explain the feeling, but it was just a release.”

-Alex [6]

According to the Mayo Clinic, this type of self-harm is a maladaptive means of coping with profound emotional pain, anger, or frustration [2B].

Cutting (in whatever form) acts to distract from internal turmoil; restore a sense of control (at least over the body, if not the underlying situation); inflict punishment; and communicate distress to the world [2C].

Though cutting may bring temporary relief, calm is generally followed by guilt and shame [2D][7A].  Soon enough, the troubling emotions return.  More-serious (even fatal) harm can follow.

Prevalence

Studies have shown cutting to be extremely common among adolescents.  Over 20% of adolescents are now thought to self-harm at some point [7B].   Approximately 18% continue into adulthood [1D].  This does not make the practice benign. Continue reading

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Falling Knives, Part 2

“Self-Injury Awareness Day – Open Your Eyes. Open Your Heart.” Photo by AndyCandy94 (CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication).

And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones” (Mark 5: 5) [1].

For many abuse victims, assaults on ourselves are more than an emotional echo of earlier trauma, more than metaphorical.

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI)

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury or NSSI (commonly known as “cutting”) is generally viewed as an attempt to deal with emotional pain [2]. Estimates suggest that as many as 14% of teens engage in cutting, at one time or another [3].  But adults are not immune.

In sexual molestation and rape, the violation involves the body. Therefore, the body becomes the “enemy”. Self-inflicted injury is one way this can manifest. But negative feelings ranging from loneliness, worthlessness, and shame to stress, rage, and racing thoughts may prompt the same behavior [4]. Continue reading

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