Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation

Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation

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Self-mutilation, most commonly by cutting or burning, frequently begins in adolescence...Self-mutilation, most commonly by cutting or burning, frequently begins in adolescence and may continue for a lifetime if the behavior is left untreated. It can cause permanent scarring, blood loss, infection (including human immunodeficiency virus infection), and even death. It is also psychologically dangerous. Self-mutilation can be visually shocking -- imagine a crosshatching of ugly red gashes on an adolescent's arms and legs -- and eerily silent, a dramatic symbol that takes the place of words. It has the power to move not only psychiatrists and other mental health workers, but also the members of the emergency room staff, who bind and stitch the wounds of "cutters" and assess the likelihood that such persons will commit suicide; plastic surgeons, who are asked to remove the scars but often find their questions unanswered about how the wounds that caused them occurred; and youth workers in all areas -- hospitals, schools, and juvenile and residential facilities -- who may be struggling with more than one child who cuts, often in recognition of and in competition with each other.