Self Injury Basics
Most researchers agree that self injury is self-inflicted physical harm severe enough to cause tissue damage or marks that last for several hours, done without suicidal intent or intent to attain pleasure.
Self injury is done as a way of coping with overwhelming psychophysiological arousal. This can be to express emotion, to deal with feelings of unreality or numbness, to make flashbacks stop, to punish the self and stop self-hating thoughts or to deal with feelings of impending explosion. Self injury is more about relieving tension or distress than is it about anything else.
Although cutting is the most common form of SI, burning and head-banging are also very common. Other forms include biting, skin-picking, hari-pulling, hitting the body with objects or hitting objects with the body.
SI is a crude, ultimately destructive coping mechanism, but it works. That's why it sometimes seems to have addictive qualities. To help a person with SI, one must offer more effective coping strategies as a replacement. Learning these ways can take time; punishing a person with SI for coping in the only way he or she knows can make counseling unworkable.
(The above information was taken from Self-Injury Beyond the Myths by Deb Martinson, 1999.)
The following resources provide information on self-injurious behavior, like cutting.
S.A.F.E.(Self-Abuse Finally Ends) Alternatives is a nationally recognized leader in the treatment of self-injurious behavior such as cutting. Resource line: 1(800) DONT CUT or 1(800) 366-8288