The Truth About Cutting
By Shadow Villanueva
Recently there has been an increase in the amount of discussion surrounding the topic of “cutting”. Self injury is certainly not a new phenomenon but there has been some renewed interest in the subject, especially from adolescents, due to the attention that internet forums can create for a person who “cuts”.
I have seen some very disturbing postings to so-called “cutting forums” where adults, (primarily male adults in their 20’s or 30’s) claim to be “helping” teenagers (who are usually underage girls with low self-esteem) with cutting problems but only serve to encourage the behavior by telling them how “beautiful” it is that they are cutting themselves. It is in fact truly amazing for me to witness the arguments from people who claim that internet forums actually help solve the problem of self injury when most of these forums only serve to encourage the behavior by praising those who post pictures of their injuries, and neglecting those who do not. On the vast majority of the “cutting forums” that I have seen, the most popular member is usually the adolescent girl who posts the most images of herself in various states of injury and the more blood in the photos, the better. The popularity of the girl can easily be measured by the amount of comments left, mostly by men or adolescent boys, in the photo section of her forum profile. The comments about the photos can range from a single word such as “nice” or “beautiful” to lengthy, detailed stories of how the viewer utilized the photo for masturbatory material.
When adolescents receive this type of attention, especially from members of the opposite sex, it is easy to understand why they engage in the behavior. They become dependent on the attention to fill the void left by low self esteem or neglect from their peers or parents. But the question that remains is, what about those who are not simply using the behavior to fulfill those needs or the needs of a histrionic personality?
Self injury is very often used as a “coping mechanism” by people who have not learned the appropriate ways to deal with the stress and problems that life presents to them. Those who have healthy coping skills will react to negative situations in their life by sorting out the possible courses of actions and finding the best way to react or resolve the issue. Those who can not cope will resort to unhealthy behavior such as drinking, doing drugs, lashing out at others, and cutting. When people drink excessively or do drugs in these situations, the idea is to become intoxicated and “forget” (even if for a short time) that the problem exists, but when they lash out or injure themselves the idea is to feel as though they are “in control” of the situation, when the truth is that they have no control over it at all. What is happening here is that the behavior creates a false sense of security.
The “cutter” needs to understand that cutting does not solve problems. The problems in their life are still going to be there after the bleeding stops. The only way to resolve the problem is to ask someone for help. Parents, teachers, friends, school counselors, friend’s parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, spiritual or religious advisors, free clinics in the community, toll free hotlines…the list of those who can help goes on and on.
The danger of cutting however is that it becomes an impulse and an easy way for the cutters to express frustration, even if they are just expressing it to themselves. This is one reason that I say the internet is not going to help anyone overcome an addiction to self harm. First and foremost, they will need to learn coping skills and learning how to cope requires a lot of interpersonal work. The ideal is to learn how to cope with situations around other people…not around a computer screen. Second, they will need to learn to trust someone who can physically keep track of them and monitor their progress and behavior, and if necessary, physically remove the cutter from an environment or situation in which they can do harm to themselves. Anyone with a real addiction will need professional help to break their behavioral patterns and the ultimate goal should be to function normally in the real world.