It’s easy for teen self injury and cutting to become an addictive habit. The truth is it can feel good. It can take the away the pain. It can relieve emotional pressure that seems to build up when you’re a teenager.
That’s what happened with Kayli during high school. She was having a hard time getting along with her family. They were strong Jehovah Witnesses and she just didn’t feel like that religion fit in with who she was. She was more the Gothic type, dressing in black with lots of black eye makeup. You can imagine how her family was having a hard time accepting her.
But Kayli seemed to bear with the tension of her family all right. It was when she was being attacked at school for her looks that she started to feel hurt. But things got really bad when she saw her boyfriend holding someone else’s hand. She was furious. But underneath, she admits, she felt like, “Aren’t I good for anyone?”
When her friend saw her crying, they began to commiserate. Her friend seemed to be having similar problems, and she showed Kayli that cutting was a way to relieve her emotional pressures, and she pulled back her sleeves and revealed the cuts on her wrists.
Soon after, Kayli was feeling heavy with desperation. She wanted to get away from her family. She didn’t have her boyfriend to turn to anymore and she felt alone. She took a large safety pin and drug it hard across her arm. She pushed the pin so hard that her arm began to bleed. The pain was soothing. It was a natural high. Kayli could feel that it hurt, but at the same time that pain was like a substitute for the emotional pain that came with her life problems.
Eventually teen self injury and cutting was the way she began to deal with everything. It became an addiction. It became a pattern that she could not put down. Eventually it grew and grew, along with the fights with her family, the trouble she got into, and the pressure from school to do better. Kayli attempted to take her life a few times and that really scared her. She could see that it scared her family too.
She could see that her family did in fact love her, and when she started to go to counseling, that changed things too. And it was when her counselor told her that her skin and her life are important, Kayli’s self esteem rose higher than it had ever been before. With the help of her counselor, she learned that teen self injury and cutting is the highest among those who are between the ages of 12 and 18. It’s usually not an attempt to seek attention, as some might think. Instead, it’s often a means to communicate distress, especially for those who may not be able to articulate their emotional or psychological symptoms. That felt true for Kayli. Often, cutting is an indication that there are underlying issues to be addressed or possibly a mental illness that needs treatment. Kayli knew this was true for her too.
Kayli is so glad that she has the help of her therapist. It was only when she began to see how much she was cared for and loved that she was able to stop cutting herself. She learned that the professional help of her counselor gave her the support she needed to stay away from hurting herself. Her therapist also gave her healthier coping mechanisms to help her manage her emotions and situations in which she felt angry and powerless.
Today, Kayli has a better relationship with her family and she works as a writer for an online magazine. She is thrilled to have her life and to have feelings that she can easily manage now. Although teen self injury was once an addiction for her; it’s no longer an issue in her life.
By Robert Hunt
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Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.