FAQs About Self-Injury

By Shana Schutte
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Focus on the Family
If you or someone you love cuts, the choice to stop can be challenging and scary. Still, change is possible.

I’m cutting myself. What do I do?

If you struggle with self-injury, maybe you’re like Annie. She hates her addiction, but letting go of the only control she feels she has is terrifying. It has become a kind of best friend—something to hold on to when life hurts. Or maybe you’re like Jillian. Jillian wants to stop because she knows it hurts those who love her; she’s tired of hiding her addiction, and she want to learn how to be more emotionally intimate with others. If you can relate to Annie or Jillian, the choice to stop cutting can be challenging and scary. Still, change is possible. How do you know? Christ said you can. Consider, for example, Matthew 19:26. “Jesus looked at [his disciples] and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'” Change means confronting a tremendous obstacle, but with God, friends, loved ones and a compassionate counselor, you can take the first step toward recovery.

What are some good reasons to stop?

God has a future and a hope for you (Jeremiah 29:11), and Jesus came to bind up your broken heart (Isaiah 61:1). This means that He wants you to live free from the feelings of guilt, sadness, depression, shame, hopelessness and fear that drive you to cut. You see, cutting is not the problem. It’s only a symptom of a deeper emotional pain that God wants to, and is able to, heal.

What first step can I take to achieve victory over cutting?

The only long-term solution to stop the pain you may feel is to ask for help! It’s essential to find someone compassionate to walk with you through the emotional pain that has led you to cut. Call 1-800-A-Family and ask for the counseling department. After we talk with you, free of charge, we’ll refer you to a counselor in your area so you can continue a treatment program.

What if I’m referred to a counselor who doesn’t understand my problem?

Carrie, a former cutter, says that she was discouraged when she tried to find someone to help. She was referred to several counselors before she finally found the right fit. Don’t be discouraged if the first counselor you speak with is not the one who can best help you. If this happens, try again.

Is it important for family and friends to help in the therapy process?

Steven Levenkron, author of Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation Levenkron, Steven. (1998) Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutiliation. New York, NY: reprinted by Lion’s Crown Publishing., says, “The more people who are available as resources for treatment, the more powerful the treatment becomes.” Why? Because family and friends can act as “windows” into the cutters history. This helps both the counselor and the cutter to gain insight that wouldn’t otherwise be available. If you are a parent or friend of a cutter, ask the counselor or therapist how you can help in the recovery process.

What can slow down recovery time?

Treatment can take longer if the cutter suffered severe emotional, physical, sexual, spiritual abuse or neglect, especially in the early developmental years of life. Other reasons include the child being forced to become a care-taker for a needy or emotionally immature parent or if the client’s parents are ill or deceased.

What kind of outlets do those struggling with self-injury have?

When Bethany, a cutter in recovery, has the desire to cut, she finds her sketchbook, magazines, glue and scissors to create a collage. Words like, “pain,” “freedom,” “trapped,” and “anxiety” fill the pages in a burst of color. This kind of creativity is helpful, she says. “It keeps my hands occupied and the sketchbook is a physical representation of my emotions.” When Bethany glues words representing her emotions on paper, it’s a way to work through what she feels and gives her a healthy alternative to cutting. Besides Bethany’s personal creative outlets, counselors also say writing, music and poetry are cathartic and release a healthy outpouring of emotions.

Talk to a Counselor

Focus on the Family offers a one-time complimentary consultation from a Christian perspective.

Copyright 2007 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Shana Schutte
Shana Schutte

Shana Schutte is a freelance writer, author and speaker living in Colorado Springs, Colo.

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