How Pain Covers Pain
It seems that self-harm or cutting have become as popular as drugs or alcohol as a method to cover over pain. It also seems to be destroying lives in the same way as other addictions do. Hopefully, that life is not yours. But if it is, help can be on the way. You don't have to stay stuck in the vicious cycle of self-mutilation.
What is Cutting?
Cutting is a form of self-harm often used to handle overwhelming or negative feelings. It is a way for people to “feel” something physical when they feel numb or pained on the inside. It also gives the cutter a false sense of control since they can choose when, where, and how to cut. Cutting can lead to permanent scarring, extended bouts of depression, diminished self-esteem, and possible infection.
Does Cutting Yourself Make You Feel Better?
If you’re a cutter, you might think it’s helping you feel better about the deep emotional pain you feel. But the truth is: cutting is a counterfeit helper. It promises relief from the hurt you’re feeling, but it only ends up making the heartache even worse.
If your thumb hurts, it doesn't make sense to cut off your foot. In the same way, making yourself bleed is no way to take care of your very real emotional and spiritual needs. Cutting yourself merely covers over the deeper emotional pain you're feeling. But like every other addiction, it's far too much medicine for the sickness, and will come back to haunt you.
Nonetheless, you or someone you know likely cuts for the benefits you get from it. In fact, as someone once said, for every thrill there is a chill. So, let’s not deny, with cutting there is some kind of a thrill. If cutting yourself for fun is a temptation, it's helpful to understand the toll it takes on your body and mind.
Cutting Triggers Your Body's Chemistry
The body naturally produces a chemical compound called endorphins. Endorphins are released to help the body deal with pain and stress. In fact, endorphins cause an actual high designed to cover over real physical pain. And cutting causes real physical pain.
You might have heard of runners high? This is simply the release of endorphins into the bloodstream when someone puts their body through something extremely physically challenging. This high, or euphoria, is extremely addictive.
Much of the same thing happens when you cut. Your brain is flooded with endorphins, which gives you a rush, and a sense of calmness and relief that makes you feel like everything is ok. Some cutters claim the high can last up to 90 minutes, but what happens when those high wears off?
Sarah S. understands this chemical dependency, after being addicted to cutting for six years. "Your body has its own pain management using hormones called endorphins. Endorphins manage physical pain, as well as emotional. When someone cuts, endorphins are released and helps [cover up] the emotional and physical pain. It will make you feel better for a few minutes and then you will crash again. Eventually, your body will build a tolerance to it and you will have to cut deeper and/or more frequently and more cuts at one time to get the same effect as before."
So, in the end, cutting is rather simple to explain.
It is using self-inflicted pain to get a high, in order to self-medicate an emotional pain with a temporary feel good. The problem is the feel good quickly can turn to a feel bad, or worse, to an addiction.
Megan says she got addicted to the physical high of cutting as an early teen. "I started cutting in junior high because a girl who was cooler than me was doing it. I kept on doing it because it helped with my pain that I was having from school or my family, or later from my eating disorder. I'm 20 years old and I realize now that I cut for a bit of a high, but I don't have that urge to feel that high anymore."
Megan doesn't feel the urge to get the cutter's high anymore. How did she stop? One thing I know for sure, she came face to face with the consequences of cutting.
A Struggle on Many Levels
Perhaps, after reading this, you've come to the realization for the first time that you need to deal with an emotional pain you have been hiding as well as find the strength to resist the temptation to cover that pain with cutting. This might be a lot to take in. If your first reaction is a desire to put off dealing with the emotional pain, you are not alone. It's understandable that you don't want to go there. In fact, it's precisely why you've been covering it over with self-harm. But if you have come this realization today, I encourage you to not prolong the hurt. Get it out into the open. You are strong enough to deal with it and move forward.
You can face this trial with HOPE. You are not alone. Many people do conquer their addiction to cutting. You can chat with a HopeCoach when they are available. You can reach out to our partner organization, Door of Hope. And you can turn to God for help. I know it's hard to understand why bad things have happened, but God is good and wants to rescue you. You just need to turn to him.
“Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” Psalm 94:17-19
If you lay this struggle before God and trust him to help you, He will give you the strength you need.
"For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7
Here are more Verses of Hope for Struggling with Self-Harm.
For more help to stop cutting yourself, read my blog on how to resist the urge to cut yourself.