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What are the reasons why young women are self-harming?

There are a few reasons why young women are self-harming. 

a) For some young women it is part of an identity that they are taking on. These young women are often grabbing onto the self-harm behavior without really having the deeper issues. For them having some small scar is no different than putting on eye make up in the morning. It is part of their identity.

b) For others self-harm is about commanding the attention of others. While it may not be on purpose, the cutter has learned that the attention gained through showing her scars gives her a certain amount of power in relationships that she may not have experienced before. 

c) For others self-harm is a survival technique. It is actually the thing that keeps some young women alive, though this is a dangerous line to walk. It is something that tends to match the intensity of the pain the person is feeling. It is an emotional relief of feelings they don’t know how to express.

Sometimes it helps to try and imagine what it would be like to be in their situation. Imagine a scenario where you were adopted. At age 5 or 6 you began to understand that you were adopted. You start to feel a huge sense of loss and grief. At age 5 or 6 you don’t know how to express this. You hold on to this pain for years. Nobody can quite resolve it. Over the years you develop some beliefs about yourself, how bad you must be and then you collect evidence for it wherever you go. The play ground, the lunch room, family conflict. Soon, all if it begins to point to you as “the problem” and you begin to think how much better off people would be without you. But you hate the thought. In your elevated moments of worry and pain you begin to clench your fists and you punch yourself on your leg and arm. “if I could just get out of this disgusting body” you think. You scratch yourself. “you deserve it” you tell yourself. With that scratching you have given yourself emotional relief. You have taken action for the first time about a problem that has been boiling within you for years. Eventually you will become much more sophisticated at your self-harm. 

This is just one of the hundreds of stories or examples you can come up with. Bullying, sexual abuse or trauma, depression, loss of a loved one, and many other events can lead to the pain that would cause a person to feel the intensity needed to self-harm. If you or a loved one is contemplating or participating in self-harm behavior, contact us today to learn more about programs that can help and heal.