Mind Candy

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How to cope with self-injury

Posted by mandyf on June 26, 2012

Learning how to personally cope with the cycle self-injury is no easy task and it certainly isn’t something that happens over night. Self-injury is a behavior of addiction, no addiction is easy to leave behind, nor is there every a point in which you can truly say that you are completely beyond it. Just as self-injury serves as a coping mechanism for the self-injurer, a new coping mechanism must be learned to cope with the behavior itself so that the cycle can be broken.

When pressure builds to the point of being unmanageable and self injury becomes the only way your mind finds release possible, the problems are just beginning. There is the immediate biochemical response which does create a momentary sense of euphoria and relief. That feeling is of course good, and it does work as an effective masking agent, but at best it is only temporary. What happens is it goes from being a means in which huge pressures and issues are dealt with to a means of dealing with everything that hurts. Eventually it replaces every other means of getting by in the way the general population would when faced with the same issue.

One of the things so few people that self-injure talk about however is the feelings that arise after the euphoria wears off. While not everyone responds the same, in many people there is a great feeling of guilt. A point in which the question triggers in a persons mind of “How/why did I do this again?” You find yourself time and again saying this is going to be the last time, but then it isn’t , with each “last time” that comes the guilt becomes an even greater burden which just adds to the feeling of needing to self-injure.

Then there is the further issue of wanting to keep the behavior private. Very few people let anyone they personally interact with know that this is a part of their life. As such self-injury is generally restricted to areas which won’t be easily seen by others during daily life if at all. The problem comes when you have injured those easy to conceal areas so often they just don’t seem to work anymore. The scarring is to great requiring deeper cutting. Sometimes the thought enters that a different area might get the response you’re looking for. Eventually visible areas have to be harvested. That leaves only the option of wearing long sleeve shirts or pants constantly to cover the injuries or or deal with public scrutiny. In either case it further adds to the list of things which make further self injury probable.

Then, like people that engage in any addictive/abusive behavior comes the realization that each succeeding trip to the proverbial well yields less and less of the desired response, making the need to or the feeling of needing to self-injure more often or to a greater extreme. Going either of those routes does nothing but increase the dependence and the risk of complications like infection or going too far and causing permanent damage. Eventually most people are lucky and realize the need for help from a professional, sometimes however it only happens after their behavior has been discovered by someone else, or it has in fact gone too far and their self-injury leads to the need for immediate medical attention due to an unplanned physical complication.

In the end learning how to cope with self-injury is often learning to use the tactics one should have used to deal with the original issues that led to self-injurious behavior in the first place, which is seeking professional help. People that self-injure rarely break the cycle on their own. They learn how to mask their self-injury much the same way they learn to use that behavior to mask other problems. Please take the advice of someone that has been there and just don’t start. Self-injury isn’t really something you cope with, it’s something you escape with, and escapism isn’t facing life.

If you or someone you know is self-injuring or is thinking about it, please seek professional help or call 1-800-DONTCUT.

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