The act of “cutting” or making scratches on arms, legs or other body parts is not a halfhearted attempt at suicide. In fact, it’s an effort by the self-injury individual to feel alive. Individuals who cut or self-injure often perform this act as a way to handle life, not to die, or end the life. Placing Cuts on the body is not the only way to self-injure. Some individuals burn themselves or mutilate parts of the body with instruments or fingers.
The following are common reasons why individuals cut or self-injure:
- Anger or stress relief
- Escaping a bad or unwanted feeling
- Expressing emotional pain
- Influencing peers or family
- Preventing suicide
- Coping with feelings
Common reasons self-injury individuals give for NOT stopping this behavior:
“I can do whatever I want with my body.”
“I am now in control.”
“The scars remind me of my control to control my pain.”
“My cutting does not hurt anyone but me.”
“If I don’t self-injure, I may do something worse.”
Brain Chemistry Behind Cutting and Self-Injury
Brain chemistry may play a role in determining who self-injures and who doesn’t. In the early 1990’s, Favazza & Simeon found that people who self-injure tend to be more angry, impulsive, anxious, and aggressive. Their studies provided evidence that some of these characteristics may be linked to deficits in the brain’s serotonin system. In 1994, Zweig-Frank also suggest that degree of self-injury is related to a serotonin dysfunction and in 2000, Steiger , in a study of bulimics, found that serotonin function in bulimic women was significantly lower in bulimics who also engaged in self-harm. Serotonin acts both as a chemical messenger that transmits nerve signals between nerve cells and that causes blood vessels to narrow. Changes in the serotonin levels in the brain can alter an individual’s mood.