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  • Cutting

    How Can I Help A Friend Who Cuts?

    Be an Informed Friend

    Anna was wearing long sleeves under her soccer jersey again. She told Monica she was worried about getting too much sun. But when Anna raised her arm, Monica noticed fresh cuts on her forearm. When she saw Monica looking at them, Anna said something about losing a fight with her mother’s rose bushes.

    You’re aware that some people — both guys and girls — cut themselves on purpose. Could your friend be one of them? If so, what should you do?

    It can be hard to understand why a friend might injure himself or herself on purpose. Cutting — using a sharp object to cut your own skin on purpose until it bleeds — is a form of self-injury. People sometimes self-injure by burning their skin with the lit end of a cigarette, a lighter, or a match. Their skin won’t show cut marks, but it might show the small, round scars of a burn.

    Some people turn to this behavior when they have problems or painful feelings and haven’t found another way to cope or get relief.

    Most of the time, people who cut themselves don’t talk about it or let others know they’re doing it. But sometimes they confide in a friend. Sometimes a friend might find out in another way.

    Your Feelings

    It can be upsetting to learn that a friend has been cutting. You might feel confused or scared. You may feel sad or sorry that your friend is hurting herself in this way. You might even be mad — or feel like your friend has been hiding something from you. You might wonder what to say, whether to say anything at all, or if there is anything you can do to help a friend who cuts.

    It can help you to know more about cutting, why some people do it, and how they can stop. Sharing this information with your friend can be a caring act, and it might help her or him take the first step toward healing.

    Understanding why a friend may be cutting can help you be supportive. But what can you actually do to help your friend stop?

    The first thing is to be realistic about what you can achieve: As with any damaging behavior (such as alcoholism, drugs, or eating disorders), some people just may not be ready to acknowledge the problem and stop. So don’t put too much pressure on yourself — your friend’s problem could be a longstanding one that requires help from a professional therapist or counselor. Therapists who specialize in treating adolescents often are experienced in working with people who self-injure and can also help with other issues or emotional pain they might have.

    Ways to Help

    • Talk about it. You’ve asked about the cuts and scratches — and maybe your friend changed the subject. Try again. Let your friend know that you won’t judge and that you want to help if you can. If your friend still won’t talk about it, just let him or her know the offer stands and you are open to talking anytime. Sometimes it helps to let a friend know that you care. Still, even though you do your best, your friend might not want to talk.
    • Tell someone. If your friend asks you to keep the cutting a secret, say that you aren’t sure you can because you care. Tell your friend that he or she deserves to feel better. Then tell an adult in a position to help, like your parents, a school psychologist or counselor, or a teacher or coach your friend is close to. Getting treatment may help your friend overcome the problem. Your friend may be mad at you at first. But studies show that 90% of those who self-injure are able to stop within a year of beginning treatment.
    • Help your friend find resources. Try to help your friend find someone to talk to and a place to get treatment. There are also some good books and online support groups for teens who self-injure. Be careful, though: Although some websites offer useful suggestions about how to resist the urge to cut, the stories or pictures some people send in may actually trigger the urge to cut in those who read or see them. And some sites promote a sense of sisterhood or solidarity that might interfere with someone getting help. There’s nothing cool about cutting — beware of people or websites that suggest there is!
    • Help your friend find alternatives to cutting. Some people find that the urge to self-injure passes if they squeeze an ice cube in their hand really hard, draw with a red marker on the body part they feel like cutting, take a walk with a friend (you!), rip up old newspapers, stroke their cat or dog, play loud music and dance, or find another distraction or outlet for their feelings. These strategies don’t take the place of getting professional counseling, but they can help in the short run.
    • Acknowledge your friend’s pain. Let friends who cut know that you get what they’re going through by saying things like, “Your feelings must just overwhelm you sometimes. You’ve been through a lot — no wonder you hurt. I want to help you find a way to cope that won’t hurt you anymore.” Try to avoid statements that send the message you don’t take your friend’s pain seriously (such as “But you’ve got such a great life” or “Things aren’t that bad,” which can feel dismissive to a person who cuts).
    • Be a good role model. Everyone experiences painful emotions like hurt, anger, loss, disappointment, guilt, or sadness. These emotions are part of being human. Coping with strong emotions — instead of dwelling on them and continuing to feel bad — involves a few key skills, like knowing how to calm yourself down when you’re upset, putting feelings into words, and working out solutions to everyday problems. Be the kind of person who can do this and your friend will learn from you.


    Things to Avoid

    • Don’t deliver an ultimatum. The best thing friends can do is to be there for each other, accepting and supporting one another without judgment. Try to avoid issuing deadlines or ultimatums to people who self-injure (for example, don’t tell them you won’t be a friend if they don’t stop cutting). This strategy doesn’t work and it just puts pressure on everyone. Let your friend know that you’ll always be there to talk to.
    • Don’t accidentally reinforce the behavior . Among some people, cutting can have a certain mystique. If you’re concerned about a friend who cuts, don’t let your friend buy into the notion that the behavior is a sign of strength, rebellion, punk chic, or simply a part of his or her personal identity. Don’t reward drama with too much attention.
    • Don’t join in. A few people may try to get others to cut as a way to be part of the group or to seem cool. They might dare you or try to convince you to cut to see how it feels. Don’t let peer pressure pull you into doing something you know isn’t right for you. Someone who tries to pressure you probably isn’t a true friend after all.


    Note: People can stop cutting – although they may feel as if they can’t. IT’S NOT EASY. It takes courage and strength, and willingness to deal with the issues that got them started cutting in the first place.


    How Important Is It to Help?

    People who cut usually don’t intend to injure themselves severely, and cutting isn’t usually a suicide attempt. Most of the people who cut themselves say they don’t mean to die and that they know when to stop.

    But even when suicide is not the goal, cutting can still cause severe injury or death. People who self-injure risk infections, scarring, and shock (from blood loss), and they can die as a result of extreme injury or bad cuts that don’t get treated promptly.

    Without help, people who cut also may continue to feel socially isolated and depressed. People who self-injure may have other problems (such as eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, or severe depression) that require long-term professional care.

    By helping a friend address cutting problems, you may open the door for him or her to resolve other issues, too. The first step to getting help is usually the hardest.

    What If a Friend Rejects Help?

    It’s often difficult to help a friend who cuts. You may not see changes overnight, if at all. Some people aren’t ready to face what they’re going through — and you can’t blame yourself for that.

    Some people might not be ready to ask for or receive help with their troubles. You can encourage a friend to get help, but he or she might not open to the idea, at least not right away. You might need to be patient. Your friend could need time to think about what you’ve said.

    People react in different ways when someone tries to help. But don’t be afraid to try. Sometimes, honest concern is just what a person needs. By reaching out, you might just help a friend take the first step toward healing.

    Sometimes when you try to help, your friend might be angry or say you don’t understand. Or the friend might really appreciate that you care but still not be ready to accept help.

    It’s natural to feel helpless, worried, sad, or upset — especially if you feel you’re the only one who knows what your friend is going through. Sometimes it helps to confide in an adult you trust about the situation.

    It can be really hard when a friend just won’t let you help. But don’t take on the burden as your own or feel responsible for someone else’s behavior. Sometimes even the truest friend may need to take a break from an intense situation. Be sure to care for yourself and don’t allow yourself to be drained or pulled down by your friend’s situation.

    From: Teen Health

  • Cutting

    How Can I Stop Cutting?

    Resisting the Urge to Cut

    If you’ve been cutting and you want to stop, here are some approaches that might help you.

    For people who cut, doing something different may be a big change. Making this change can take time because you are learning new ways of dealing with the things that led you to cut. The tips you’ll see below can get you started. But a therapist or counselor can do more to help you heal old hurt and use your strengths to cope with life’s struggles.

    Start by being aware of which situations are likely to trigger your urge to cut. Make a commitment that this time you will not follow the urge, but will do something else instead.

    Then make a plan for what you will do instead of cutting when you feel this urge.

    Below are some tips you can try when you feel the urge to cut. We’ve put them into several categories because different people cut for different reasons. So certain techniques will work better for some people than others.

    Look through all the tips and try the ones that you think might work for you. You may need to experiment because not all of these ideas will work for everyone. For example, some readers have told us that snapping a rubber band works for them as a substitute for cutting but others say that the rubber band triggers an urge to snap it too hard and they end up hurting themselves.

    If one tip isn’t right for you, that’s OK. Use your creativity to find a better idea. Or talk with your therapist to get other ideas on what could work for you. The idea is to find a substitute for cutting — something that satisfies a need you might feel without being as harmful as cutting.

    You may also find that one of these ideas works for you sometimes but not always. That’s OK too. What a person needs can vary from time to time and from situation to situation.

    The techniques listed on the following pages will help you think about why you might cut — as well as offer ideas on other things to do when you feel like cutting. The more you learn about what’s underneath your cutting behavior, the better you will be able to understand and develop healthy ways to heal that pain.

    Things to Distract You

    Like all urges, the urge to cut will pass if you wait it out. Distracting yourself with something else helps time go by and gets your mind off the urge to cut. The more you wait out the urge without giving in, the more your urges will decrease over time.

    Here are some things you can try while waiting for a cutting urge to pass:

    • Call a friend and talk about something completely different
    • Take a shower (make sure you don’t have razors in the shower)
    • Go for a walk or run, take a bike ride, dance like crazy, or get some other form of exercise
    • Play with a pet
    • Watch TV (change the channel if the show gets upsetting or features cutting)
    • Drink a glass of water

    Even if you’re not sure why you’re cutting, it’s worth giving these ideas a try

    Things to Soothe and Calm You

    Sometimes people cut because they’re agitated or angry — even though they may not recognize that feeling. If that’s true for you, it can help to do something calming when you feel the need to cut.

    Things to Help You Express the Pain and Deep Emotion

    Some people cut because the emotions that they feel seem way too powerful and painful to handle. Often, it may be hard for them to recognize these emotions for what they are — like anger, sadness, or other feelings. Here are some alternatives to cutting that you can try:

    • Draw or scribble designs on paper using a red pen or paint on white paper — if it helps, make the paint drip
    • Write out your hurt, anger, or pain using a pen and paper
    • Draw the pain
    • Compose songs or poetry to express what you’re feeling
    • Listen to music that talks about how you feel

    Things to Help Release Physical Tension and Distress

    Sometimes, doing things that express anger or release tension can help a person gradually move away from cutting. Try these ideas:

    • Go for a walk or run, ride a bike, dance like crazy, or get some other form of exercise
    • Rip up some paper
    • Write out your hurt, anger, or pain using a pen and paper
    • Scribble on paper using a red pen
    • Squeeze, knead, or smoosh a stress ball, handful of clay, or Play-Doh


    Things to Help You Feel Supported and Connected

    If you cut because you feel alone, misunderstood, unloved, or disconnected, these ideas may help:

    • Call a friend
    • Play with a pet
    • Make a cup of tea, some warm milk, or cocoa
    • Try some yoga exercises that help you feel grounded, such as triangle pose
    • Try a breathing exercise like the one in the button above
    • Curl up on your bed in a soft, cozy blanket


    Substitutes for the Cutting Sensation

    You’ll notice that all the tips in the lists above have nothing to do with the cutting sensation. When you have the idea to self-injure, start by trying the ideas on those lists — such as making art, walking your dog, or going for run.

    If they don’t help, move on to the substitute behaviors shown below.

    These substitute behaviors won’t work for everyone. They also don’t help people get in touch with why they are cutting. What they do is provide immediate relief in a way that doesn’t involve cutting, and therefore holds less risk of harm.

      • Rub an ice cube on your skin instead of cutting it
      • Wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap it gently against your skin
      • Draw on the skin with a soft-tipped red pen in the place you might usually cut


    You Can Do It

    Cutting can be a difficult pattern to break. But it is possible.

    If you want help overcoming a self-injury habit and you’re having trouble finding anything that works for you, talk with a therapist. Getting professional help to overcome the problem doesn’t mean that someone is weak or crazy. Therapists and counselors are trained to help people discover inner strengths that help them heal. These inner strengths can then be used to cope with life’s problems in a healthy way.

    If You Need Help

    The Crisis Text Line serves young people by providing help through text. If you need help please reach out to them.

    Crisis Text Line

    Text “GIRL” to 741-741. It’s FREE, confidential, and available 24/7.

    From: Teen Health