The International Self-Mutilation Awareness Group
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Information to help families, doctors, and loved ones to understand self-mutilation.

Understanding the Process of Cutting
1) Anxiety, anger, tension, and panic mounts.
2) Overwhelming feelings that the situation is intolerable and uncontrollable.
3) The irresistable need to cut, to the extent that the cutter feels that there is no other way out.
4) The cutting begins.
5) Immediate but extremely temporary relief overwhelms the cutter.
6) Usually, shame overcomes the cutter after the action is complete.
When doctors or family members are dealing with someone who has self-multilated, it is important to encourage that person to reveal important characteristics about their feelings prior to cutting. For example, a cutter may hear a repeating phrase in his or her head ("I'm not worth it, etc."), and it is important to work with the cutter on disspelling these untrue mantras from overcoming them in the minutes prior to when the cutting begins.

Most people who self-injure tend to be perfectionists, are unable to handle intense feelings, are unable to express their emotions verbally, have dislike for themselves and their bodies, and can experience severe mood swings. They may turn to self-injury as a way to express their feelings and emotions, or as a way to punish themselves.

Self-injury can help someone relieve intense feelings such as anger, sadness, loneliness, shame, guilt and emotional pain. Many people who cut themselves do this in an attempt to try and release all the emotions they are feeling internally. Others may feel so numb that seeing their own blood when they cut themselves helps them to feel alive, because they usually feel so dead inside. Some people find that dealing with physical pain is easier than dealing with emotional pain. Self-injury is also used as a way to punish oneself. If they were abused, they may feel ashamed, guilty and blame themselves for the abuse, which in turn causes them to feel the need to punish themselves by inflicting pain to their own bodies.

For Cutters: A Truncated List of Ways to Stop Cutting
-deep breathing
-relaxation techniques
-call a friend, your therapist or a crisis line
-try not be be alone (visit a friend, go shopping, etc.)
-go for a walk
-punch a bed or a pillow
-avoid temptation
-go outside and scream and yell
-allow yourself to cry
Make a list of reasons why you are going to stop cutting.  Every time you get the urge, read the list to remind yourself why you shouldn't.  Also remember to put on that list that you do not deserve to hurt yourself.  Remember that you are important and special and do not deserve to be hurt.  

"Cutters" are all different. Some tend to make many shallow cuts, while some make one or two short deep cuts. Some cut to experience pain, while others cut to lose blood. Many cutters engage in other forms of self injury, most often burning, while some self-mutilators don't cut at all, but only burn, or break bones, etc. In the last three years, cutting has become a "trend", striking a great many teens who begin the practice of self-mutilation after hearing about it from friends at school. The number of teenage "cutters" in the U.S. has increased more than 550% in the last five years alone.

Intentional harm to oneself is surprisingly common. It has been estimated that 0.75% of the population engages in "self-mutilation" (note that self-mutilation has become the accepted term for self harm, even though the "mutilation" is often mild). Thus, with the exception of the mainstream body modification practices, such as ear-piercing, small tattoos, etc., self-mutilation is more common than body modification. For comparison, the major mental illnesses, schizophrenia, and manic-depressive disorders each has an incidence in the 1% range.