Self-Mutilation and Intervention
Self-mutilation is the general term for a girl hurting herself without hoping to die. The most common behavior is cutting herself with a razor, but it can also include biting herself, bruising herself, burning herself with a cigarette, or amputating parts of her body.
Since the early 1990s, the incidence of self-mutilation seems to have risen. Less than 1 percent of the general population is thought to practice self-mutilation, but the incidence is highest among teenage girls. Self-mutilation, however, should never be confused with getting tattoos and body piercings.
Many researchers think self-mutilation is the result of a girl's feeling of shame or her wish to relieve an unbearable tension within her. It can also represent anger at someone else that is instead directed against the girl herself. What makes it worse is that “cutters” always try to hide their scars from the public. So you have to wonder what is going on if your daughter walks around covered from head to toe all year — even in mid-July.
The disorder of hair-pulling (trichotillomania) is present when a girl repeatedly pulls out her hair and maybe even her eyelashes and eyebrows. It often begins in childhood or adolescence. The cause is not crystal clear, but as with all self-harming conditions, the parent should seek help immediately. Overall, the majority of self-mutilators have experienced some sort of trauma in the past that set them off. It is your duty to find out what happened — now.
When you find your daughter in pain, you hurt. The more she suffers, the more you do. So end the suffering for both of you — now. Girls who self-mutilate in whatever form are in an agony worse than you can imagine. Most of them have experienced something truly awful, such as:
An overwhelming trauma
Sexual abuse as a child or tween
Severe physical abuse
Emotional neglect, starvation, or imprisonment
For your girl to want to hurt herself is a sign that she may feel dead and yet wants to be alive so badly that the sensation of pain gives her that momentary feeling of existing.
Should you sense or see any signs of self-mutilation in your daughter or her friends, take charge immediately. Write down what you see, and take your observations to a professional. Probe into the past. Find out what happened and when. See to it that the guilty person or persons are dealt with. Even more important, see to it that your lovely daughter can start healing — from this moment on.