At first glance after scanning through the poem about teen cutting above, it looks like an innocent writing assignment. The poem is contained in a typical school composition notebook. But after closer inspection, it is no run of the mill creative writing exercise. It is more of a cautionary tale written by a teen girl at Inspirations for Youth and Families Teen Rehab. It is clear there is nothing innocent about this writing. What this budding literary prodigy communicates is her unabashed true feelings and interpretations about teen cutting.
Her soul so deep and dark. Her heart is fractured and worn. Too tough to weep. Too weak to seek. For someone to bandage her heart
Anonymous Teen Girl from Inspirations for Youth and Families
Cutting with razors and other sharp objects is a troubling trend among women, especially teenagers. Disney starlet Demi Lovato sought treatment for the disorder, along with bulimia and bipolar disease. Why do young women engage in such self-destructive behavior, and are these behaviors connected? Mark Hyman Rapaport, M.D., explains…
“Often, people who cut themselves hide their injuries out of shame and embarrassment. But some of that stigma faded last year when actress and teen singer Demi Lovato, then 18, admitted she has struggled with cutting and bulimia since she was 11 years old,” said Rapaport.
“It was a way of expressing my shame on my body,” she told 20/20 ABC’s news magazine. “There were times where my emotions were just so built up, I didn’t know what to do,” she says. “Cutting was the only way I could get an immediate release.”
Lovato, while undergoing treatment last winter, was also diagnosed with bipolar disease. Now she speaks publicly about all these issues so common among our teens.
Why would someone engage in self-harm or cutting?
It could be a sign of someone under tremendous pressure and distress. It can be hard to understand why people cut themselves on purpose. Cutting is a way some people try to cope with the pain of strong emotions, intense pressure, or upsetting relationship problems. They may be dealing with feelings that seem too difficult to bear or bad situations they think can’t change.
People who cut may not have developed ways to cope. Or their coping skills may be overpowered by emotions that are too intense. When emotions don’t get expressed in a healthy way, tension can build up – sometimes to a point where it seems almost unbearable. Cutting may be an attempt to relieve that extreme tension. For some, it seems like a way of feeling in control. People who cut or self-injure sometimes have other mental health problems that contribute to their emotional tension. Cutting is sometimes (but not always) associated with depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, obsessive thinking, or compulsive behaviors, drug, or alcohol abuse.
There are other ways to cope with difficulties, even big problems and terrible emotional pain:
- The help of a mental health professional might be needed for major life troubles or overwhelming emotions.
- For other tough situations or emotions, it can help put things in perspective to talk problems over with parents, other adults, or friends.
- And getting plenty of exercise also can help put problems in perspective and help balance emotions.
What can happen to people who cut?
Cutting may provide some temporary relief from a terrible feeling, even for people who agree that cutting isn’t a good way to get that relief. For one thing, the relief doesn’t last. The troubles that triggered the cutting remain – they’re just masked over.
Most people who cut aren’t attempting suicide. Cutting is usually a person’s attempt at feeling better. Although some people who cut do attempt suicide, its usually because of the emotional problems and pain that lie behind their desire to self-harm, not the cutting itself.
Cutting can be habit forming. It can become a compulsive behavior – meaning that the more a person does it, the more he or she feels the need to do it again. The brain starts to connect the false sense of relief from bad feelings to the act of cutting, and it craves this relief the next time tension builds. When cutting becomes a compulsive behavior, it can seem impossible to stop. So cutting can seem almost like an addiction, where the urge to cut can seem too hard to resist. A behavior that starts as an attempt to feel more in control can end up controlling you.
How parents can see signs of self-harm or cutting?
Parents first need to have a strong enough relationship with their child in order for the parent to notice there’s a problem to be addressed. It ‘s important that there’s enough trust that the child is willing to work with the family and outside experts to get help. That’s very difficult with adolescents, however, it’s so important to have an open and non-judgmental relationship so they can come to you when they’re in distress. Open communication and acceptance is good.
Should parents snoop around in their child’s life?
If they’re a minor and your held responsible should anything happen to them, then heck yes! Your not being nosy, your BEING A PARENT! I know I never got the memo that said parenting would be easy. By knowing what’s going on in your child’s life, you will be dealing with the problem in the beginning stage, therefore preventing the problem from getting worse.
Warning signs of people who cut:
- There are changes in your teen’s friends (the type of people that your child is now hanging out with)
- They are withdrawn from their friends all together
- The teen loses interest in personal/school activities they once enjoyed
- There is a noticeable change in their day-to-day behaviors like eating and sleeping
- Your child is either personally withdrawn, aggressive or assertive
These are all signs/behaviors that suggest that your child is drifting toward trouble. Don’t wait, call a professional.