First off, I apologize if I sent a version of this letter that is similar. I had a problem with my browser.
So, seven days ago (October 20th) I was feeling bad, possibly depression-level bad. I ended up self-harming using a rather sharp boxcutter. I've only cut three different times, causing a few cuts each time. I cut on my upper thigh high enough that my boxers cover them well. I had been considering cutting for quite some time before my first session. It's a way to show control over myself and I've started to enjoy the pain afterwards. I'm willing to risk the scars.
Now, to my question. Is this a truly unhealthy, unmanageable behavior that I need to stop? I don't want to stop.
AFoxThatIdentifiesAsADoggo (age 15)
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Thank you for your important letter. Cutting and self-harm is a subject I have touched on in other columns, but now I get to do so directly, so this is something that is good to add to the “Ask Papabear” column.
Cutting, by its very nature, is not healthy, but it is understandable and treatable. It is also quite common. Statistics show that nearly 1 in 5 Americans have harmed themselves in this manner at some point in their lives. Typically, self-harm occurs during adolescence.
There are a couple reasons why people cut themselves. One, as is the case with you, is depression or anxiety. If you are in a situation where you can’t express those feelings openly to others (family etc.), cutting affords a kind of release of emotional tension. The pain caused by cutting also distracts one from emotional pain, which provides some relief.
Another reason for cutting is self-punishment. People who feel unworthy of love and compassion become angry at themselves and feel they deserve pain. I don’t think this is what is going on with you, however. I think the former is more likely. I also don’t believe you are in danger of committing suicide; such drastic acts are usually not part of the self-cutting paradigm.
Answering your question, any time you cause trauma to your body, it’s not a good thing. It would be best if you stopped. You don’t want to stop because cutting yourself is offering you relief from your psychological and/or emotional pain.
The best solution, therefore, is to figure out what is causing that pain and put an end to it. You don’t explain what is causing it, so I would need more information there. You will stop cutting once you stop your emotional pain. This might come with a personal revelation, or with help from a therapist, or simply by outgrowing the need to cut.
Hope this helps. Feel free to write again if you wish to discuss what is really going on behind the cutting.
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