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'stereotypic' self injury?


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i had mild injurious behavior like biting as a kid and started cutting around 11 years-old. For the last decade I have gone though bouts of bad cutting aand bouts of remission; however in the last three years the type of injury has changed and I'm wondering if anyone else can relate. Things that leave scars are so much harder to ignore and because I walk in with cuts it is the cutting that my doctors pay attention to most. However the last few years I have started punching myself, hitting myself, biting, scratching, and head-banging, left myself concussed twice and once a black eye. I typically have to be restrained when this happens because it feels like inertia takes over and i am not very present, I pace and rock on the floor and I can't easily slow myself down without being forced and I tend to start biting whoever is forcing me to stop. I don't want to hurt the other person but it feels like my whole body becomes desperate. When it begins its the same feeling as cutting with a blade...its the same spike in arousal and panic and then the need to do something physical to quench it, but unlike cutting, I can't stop once I have started, and like cutting, neither offer relief anymore. 

 

Does anyone else go through self injury like this? Is it worth reiterating to my doctor? is all self injury the same? Like I said they tend to focus on the cutting and the supposed implications of it. Sometimes i cut for pleasure or boredom or just because I see it, usually i am not in a very emotional state now when i cut, so my relationship even to cutting has changed, feels like hurting myself has become all instinct and little reason. When I first started the reason was clear because I felt better after arguments when I cut. I feel insecure about being an adult cutter and even more insecure because I don't really understand why I do it anymore. anyone relate or know why this happens? Does the modality of injury influence the experience for you? Is it normal for self injury to evolve like this? I had hoped I would "grow out" of it, not grow into something else.

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I was an adult cutter, there are a lot of adults who cut, so don't feel too insecure. 

 

When cutting became too obvious for me, I started to hit myself in the head. I would basically just wail on my head until I had a horrible headache. I think it makes sense for self-injury to evolve over time, like our illnesses evolve over time. 

 

Does the modality of injury influence the experience for me? Sort of. Cutting felt much more controlled and calm for me. I would cut to feel something, to have something to focus on other than the pain I was in (from depression). Hitting myself in the head was more like an explosion of emotions. I felt like I needed to be out of control and let out all the pent up anxiety and frustration at living with depression. 

 

What do you think would help you stop cutting and hurting yourself in other ways? 

 

I definitely relate to your post, and I think it's totally worth telling your doctor about the times you lose control and other ways you self harm. 

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I think you should tell them. Hitting yourself isn't a healthy behaviour, but I can totally see your justification. I used to be able to justify any thing in my head, sometimes I still can. SI affects people of all ages and situations, don't feel embarrassed. You don't have anything that a doctor hasn't seen before. While I know that hitting yourself may feel like a valid / less damaging solution. Bruising can be dangerous and can lead to skin infection, hitting yourself in the face can damage your eyes, eyes are pretty fragile, I don't mean to scare you I just thought you should know that it's not as risk free as you might assume. I'm not sure if it's a normal progression, but often as time goes on individuals get more secretive to avoid getting caught and to make others believe that you have stopped.

 

I've felt the whole I should get over this and stop acting like an angsty teenager, but the two things are really unrelated. I really hope you tell a medical  , it doesn't have to be a behaviour that you are stuck with forever. I second Para in that you should look for ways that distract you enough to start to stop the behaviour. 

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thank you i'm making a list now for my doctor to things to let him know. I don't know when i started hitting myself or why, I think there was a point where cutting just took too much thought and effort, usually the thought "Hit yourself" kinda shoots into my head as an automatic solution and in that mode its like nothing else exists but me and whatever I want to hit myself with. I have ended up with concussions and an embarrassing black eye, though. Other than that, I suppose it has turned into a more easily concealed behavior....cutting is a whole ritual that involves cleaning up and being careful and focused, whereas hitting myself is just catharsis. I don't know if this is weird, but I think I enjoy cutting now so a sharp object by definition couldn't work in those moment. Cutting relaxes me hitting myself just expresses it,

 

I think I'm going to get some fidget toys actually...my boyfriend took the sharps but I have noticed that before hitting myself or sometimes before cutting everything start with an upswing of agitation that if the breaks aren't put on ends with me trying to hit my head into anything nearby. I think maybe if I can find a non-hurtful way of  working that energy out maybe I won't need to hurt myself in any way. I used to have tangle toys and silly putty that I played with all during group therapy and it helped keep me kind of calm. I always start pacing and fidgeting before an episode, so maybe it will help.  I do have a contract with my therapist, but its easy to break a contract when I start feeling out of control!

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Absolutely. If its a bad episode I might actually feel like I'm gone from my body, not really there, not really thinking, not really able to react to the impulse. Thats usually if I were to hit a breaking point like...your entire body is a cage and the level of agitation and frustration becomes so unbearable that your mind shuts off and the impulse to throw yourself into the wall repeatedly, or punch yourself in the face or whatever becomes too much it just has to happen. Heh. Instant gratification unlike a session of cutting, I agree. 

 

Its helpful that you are aware of what you tend to do before something like this starts, and yes I would absolutely tell your therapist about it. I like your silly putty idea for group...I might try that

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think when a lot of people hear about self injury they assume it's a 14 year old girl. Dealing with something silly like a small boy crush then cuts her self leaving little cat scratches on her self. Most people have no idea how intense it is and that it's not an attention seeking thing. I'm sorry for the amount of.stigma attached to it.

Funny how being self destructive like an alcoholic is.more socially acceptable than hurting yourself. I believe both are very similar.and if somebody can understand talk about and help an alcoholic than why can't I find a support group.for me. One that just doesn't tell me to get over it or that things will get better

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I'm pretty convinced that self harm and drug/alcohol abuse at least in the beginning start out as attempts to cope and feel better and self medicate.

 

And if they didn't work on some level, we wouldn't keep doing them.

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It's natural for people to "grow out" of things; for me that's what my change in means was. I realized cutting wasn't doing what it used to do for me (ran out of room as well) so I started experimenting with other forms of self-injury. As you probably know though, no matter how severe or what "form" the injury takes, if you're doing it with an intent to hurt yourself, it's all equal in seriousness. Definitely bring it up to your doctor/therapist. It's important to put that out in the open when it's a form of injury that is not easily seen by others. That might be when it's the most serious. It sounds like cutting served as a "gateway" form of self-injury; you know, like how marijuana and alcohol are allegedly gateways into other more serious drugs. It's important to address it before things get worse; injuries to the head are especially dangerous and we want you safe.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think as an adult the subject is very taboo. There are so many teens out there that do it, its almost stereotyped as a "teen thing". I think the general public must assume that you grow out of it, which isn't true. There are so many adults out there that struggle with it, and it can be even harder to explain the scars to your boss than it can be to your school psyc, not to mention the embarrassment. 

 

I've got a friend who used to cut loads, the scars are all up her arms and its noticeable I wont lie. Because they've healed she can get away with telling people its over and done with, but what she actually does is just do it on her legs and stomach. She was given an ultimatum at the place she works, as a nurse, saying that she couldn't work if that's what she continued to do, so she just changed location and her boss let it go. I too learnt very early on that the place to do it was not on my arms, dealing with the aftermath of the arms just made things worse. Out of site out of mind seemed the way to go. But then people think you've stopped.

 

But you do it so long that you get used to it, and its crazy, sometimes I used to sit there and do it because it was just, there? I managed to stop cutting about 2 years ago, but instead it evolved into biting and hitting myself.

I seem to think this is fine, in my head self harming is cutting, I don't seem to include substance abuse, hitting, biting and dangerous situations as self harm when it comes to me. I just don't seem to think it applies because I'm not cutting any more.

 

It is strange how self harm evolves. 

I think you need to talk about it to the docs, its good that you're making a list! Silly putty also sounds like an idea, I've heard the stress ball theory but I usually end up throwing it at something haha. Good luck!

Edited by Paperskyscraper
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