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Is there anything I could do from now, while I get psychologic help, to help me stop self-mutilation acts?

By Anonymous February 7, 2009 - 7:42am
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I was shocked to find out that this is an actual disorder. I've had some of this symptoms for a while now like pulling out my hair compulsively, picking at my skin (arms and legs specially) and I even cut my skin once :S. I found this site on StumbleUpon and read about it by coincidence.

I guess the obvious step it's to get psychologic help and I will, but as I know me and I tend to procrastinate everything by lack of time is there anything I could do in the meanwhile? I don't want to get more scars on my arms...

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Hi anon,
I'm glad that you are open to receiving psychological help for self-injury. There are many types of psychologists, psychiatrists...each with a different "approach". It is important to "shop around" and find someone that you trust and who's practice you receive well. You may not always like your therapist, but they are there to ask the difficult questions and are not necessarily there to be "liked"! If you need any help deciding on which therapist is right for you, we can help provide information for you!

In the meantime, it is difficult for any of us to suggest what you can do to stop your behavior of self-injury. As mentioned in above posts, it really depends on why you are doing it...which is where the therapist comes in.

Do you know why you self-mutilate? It usually is a form of a coping strategy (instead of coping with painful emotions, for example). Do you have examples in your life of when you are coping in positive and healthy ways? If so, I would suggest writing those down and try to turn to those methods when you feel the need to self-injure.

However, I realize this is easier "said than done", because I'm wondering if you are aware of when you are about to self-injure and if you feel like this is more of an impulsive, uncontrollable behavior? If you do feel this way, then my providing you a list of "ways to cope" may not be helpful. A therapist can help you create a sense of control and awareness to your self-mutilation, as well as other ways to cope with and express your emotions.

Are you able to temporarily replace your cutting and other self-mutilation behavior with something else (until you see a therapist?). There is a laundry list of ideas, depending on what you need & what your personality is. When you feel the urge to self-mutilate, can you: go run, cut a pillow, talk to a friend, scream, write, get out of the house, go swim... so many ideas, and I'm not sure if any of them are resonating with you or just silly! Let us know what coping strategies you've tried in the past (even if you were just mildly stressed out...what did you do that helped?)

February 8, 2009 - 2:26pm

Anonymous Responses,

I am a poet serving you a dose of implements. May you find my far reaching words to be necessary. I too share "A world of health stories."

As you notice, I am in a certain state: a state of consciousness and probably in a state of your awareness. I'd love for you to reference my words and believe, in your own sense, that these statements induce a remedy for words that infer drug use. A lot of love goes your way.

Truth is, I just might say that beyond any state is a mode of happiness. The fact is, I too state levels of knowledge to help "A world of health stories." To permeate health and happiness, I open to you a connection, "Master of Energy Healing." Your state is but a phone call.

Now that your poetry prevails, am I truly a poet?

February 7, 2009 - 9:42pm
(reply to Cynthia_ S_2009)

Hi Cynthia_S,

Can you provide more information regarding your "inferences"? I am concerned about your underlying message ("infer drug use" and "your state is but a phone call") and would appreciate more helpful information for readers.

Alison B
EmpowHer Moderator

February 8, 2009 - 9:46am
EmpowHER Guest

Hi Anonymous,

Thank you for sharing your personal story.

Self mutilation is certainly a diagnosed disorder that has become a major health concern. Most information indicates that people that self mutilate also tend to have eating disorders. Do you think you may be experiencing that as well?

Help Guide.org provides the most common behaviors for self mutilators.

The most common self-injurious behaviors are:
Cutting - involves making cuts or scratches on your body with any sharp object, including knives, needles, razor blades or even fingernails. The arms, legs and front of the torso are most commonly cut because they are easily reached and easily hidden under clothing
Branding – burning self with a hot object, Friction burn – rubbing a pencil eraser on your skin
Picking at skin or re-opening wounds (dermatillomania) - is an impulse control disorder characterized by the repeated urge to pick at one's own skin, often to the extent that damage is caused which relieves stress or is gratifying
Hair-pulling (trichotillomania) – is an impulse control disorder which at times seems to resemble a habit, an addiction, or an obsessive-compulsive disorder. The person has an irresistible urge to pull out hair from any part of their body. Hair pulling from the scalp often leaves patchy bald spots on their head which they hide by wearing hats, scarves and wigs. Abnormal levels of serotonin or dopamine may play a role in this disorder. The combined treatment of using an anti-depressant such as Anafranil and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been effective in treating this disorder. CBT teaches you to become more aware of when you’re pulling, helps you identify your pulling habits, and teaches you about what emotions and triggers are involved in hair pulling. When you gain awareness of pulling, you can learn to substitute healthier behaviors instead.
Hitting (with hammer or other object), Bone breaking, Punching, Head-banging (more often seen with autism or severe mental retardation)
Multiple piercing or tattooing - may also be a type of self-injury, especially if pain or stress relief is a factor
Drinking harmful chemicals

The best way to understand how you can stop the urges to hurt yourself is to find out why you may be experiencing the urges. Answers.com provides a few suggestions on why people may self mutilate themselves.
There are several different theories have been proposed to explain self-mutilation:
self-mutilation is an outlet for strong negative emotions, especially anger or shame, that the person is afraid to express in words or discuss with others.
self-mutilation represents anger at someone else directed against the self.
self-mutilation relieves unbearable tension or anxiety. Many self-mutilators do report feeling relief after an episode of self-cutting or other injury.
self-mutilation is a technique for triggering the body's biochemical responses to pain. Stress and trauma release endorphins, which are the body's natural pain-killing substances.
self-mutilation is a way of stopping a dissociative episode. Dissociation is a process in which the mind splits off, or dissociates, certain memories and thoughts that are too painful to keep in conscious awareness. Some people report that they feel "numb" or "dead" when they dissociate, and self-injury allows them to feel "alive."
self-mutilation is a symbolic acting-out of the larger culture's mistreatment of women. This theory is sometimes offered to explain why the great majority (about 75%) of self-mutilators are girls and women.

In the short term, you may want to try and occupy yourself during the trigger or onset of the urge. Although, this is only for short term purposes. You should really seek counseling with someone that specializes in the area of self mutilation. There are also support groups for the dissociative disorder.

Here are some links to help sites that may lead you in the right direction. I hope this helps. Please keep us updated, we would love for you to share your story.

Helping Yourself from Helpguide.org http://www.helpguide.org/mental/self_injury.htm#self.

Self-Mutilators Anonymous http://www.providence.org/healthlibrary/contentViewer.aspx?hwid=shc63sel&serviceArea=generic.

S.A.F.E. Alternatives http://www.selfinjury.com/.

February 7, 2009 - 10:06am
EmpowHER Guest


One of the things you can do is to try to be in touch with what's going on at the exact moment you start picking or pulling at yourself. In that moment, are you stressed? Are you upset? Bored?

I do the same thing and find that usually, I start picking at myself when for some reason I feel trapped, bored or needing to do something I don't want to do. Often if I listen to myself and figure out what's really bugging me, and give myself permission to take a break or do whatever it is that I am wanting to do in the moment, that I am less likely to sit around and pick at myself.

However, yes, this is an actual disorder, and you can get not only therapy to help it but medication. I might suggest a psychiatrist because they can help you get to the bottom of the mutilation and also prescribe medicine if they believe it would help. I am on a small dose of Abilify and I am absolutely amazed at the effect it has had on me. I feel halfway normal now -- I simply don't have the compulsion to pick at myself when I'm on it. I would never have believed that medicine would affect something like this behavior, but it certainly has.

I hope this helps some. Picking at ourselves is a tough thing to break but it can be done.

February 7, 2009 - 9:05am
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