Self-Injury (SI) is the act of physically hurting yourself on purpose without the intent of committing suicide. It is a method of coping during an emotionally difficult time that helps some people temporarily feel better because they have a way to physically express and release the tension and the pain they hold inside. In other people hurting themselves produces chemical changes in their bodies that make them feel happier and more relaxed.
Five key components identify and define SI.
One, SI is a harmful act done to yourself. Do not mistake lashing out in anger at others as SI.
Two, SI is only done by yourself. If anyone else does something to you that causes pain this is not SI.
Three, an act of SI must include some sort of physical violence. Emotionally punishing yourself (calling yourself a bitch or thinking you're stupid, ugly, etc.) is not SI.
Four, an act of SI is not done with the intention of killing yourself. People who slit their wrists to kill themselves, even though they have harmed their body, are not SI-ing.
Last, SI is done intentionally. Not accidentally, but with the intent purpose of hurting yourself.
Ritual mutilation is the alteration of your body for society, religion, or a peer group. Several examples include genital mutilation, some types of tattooing, scarring of the face and body, and branding. Most people don't undergo ritual mutilation by choice and they often perform the act in front of other people. Also, the scars, tattoos, brands, etc. that are the result of ritual mutilation are usually exhibited in public. Wounds and scars from SI are usually hidden.
The origin of SI is usually difficult to determine or understand. Many people are unable to remember where they first got the idea of hurting themselves, and when they actually began to SI.
But a small number of people develop SI through observational learning (a process where a person learns a behavior by watching someone else do it). The chances of most people actually seeing another person SI are very slim, but in places such as psychiatric hospitals and prisons the odds are much higher. Remember, the chances of this happening are very small.
People who SI usually begin by cutting themselves with a knife, razor blade, or other sharp object. From there the person tries other forms of SI, such as burning, hitting, etc., until they find their preferred method.
Incidents of SI peak in the early to mid-twenties. Often because of the great changes that occur, and the new responsibly and roles that produce great stress in an individual. But, often, SI incidents decrease with age, and most people stop SI-ing altogether by the time they reach their thirties.
Remember, this is the typical course of SI. There are people who begin SI-ing at a very young age, or at an old age. Some continue to hurt themselves after they reach their thirties. Everybody's experience is different.
Information from "Scarred Souls" By Tracy Alderman
Self-injury in all its forms, including accident-proneness or a tendency to be victimized again in abusive relationship, may actually constitute screen memories of abuse or symbolic memories that a person is using to keep abusive memories out of consciousness. Repeatedly hurting one-self is a way of not having to remember the original hurt. Self-wounding may also be an unconscious repetition of past abuse in an attempt to make sense of a dim but haunting memory...The amnesia that many self-injurers have for their destructive behavior may be related to the return of memories from which they have disconnected. Since emotional pain of the returning memories is overwhelming, the person enters a trancelike state in an effort to keep them blocked. Self-injurers often say that they 'find themselves' with cuts, scratches, or burns on their bodies...(Steinburg, p. 43).
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