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Question
Posted by: Ques | 2010-08-21

harm

Hi CS

Why do people cut/harm themselves, especially those that have a history of sexual abuse?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Ironically, way back in the 1970's, I did some research into self-mutilation / self-curring / self-harm and wrote some major textbook chapters on the subject. In some of my work I raised the issue of possible child abuse or other steill-overlooked issues ( such as early experience of hospitalization and surgery ) as relevant in this matter. But its far from being limited to people who have been abused, sexually or otherwise.
I haven't found much more recent research that sheds much fresh light on the subject, disappointingly.
As its often done secretly, its not easy to study, and as when revealed it can be very disturbing for the doc, nurses or therapists ( who are either upset or develop unhelpful ways of ignoring or minimizing it ) this also makes it difficult to study.
Some of my experience suggests that some people when under significant psychological stress / distress, tend to dissociate - to feel numb, and unpleasantly "dead" ; and cutting which in that state often does not hurt them as everyone else assumes it must, tends to be almost an "anti-suicide", associated with re-associating, returning to feeling more real and comforted.
Its not a recommendable method of achieving such a state, however, due to secondary complications - not only possible medical / surgical complications, but to causing nasty disruptions in relationships with family, friends and caregivers, and to leaving scars which bring back unpleasant memories later in life when this phase has been passed.

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Our users say:
Posted by: cybershrink | 2010-08-22

Ironically, way back in the 1970's, I did some research into self-mutilation / self-curring / self-harm and wrote some major textbook chapters on the subject. In some of my work I raised the issue of possible child abuse or other steill-overlooked issues ( such as early experience of hospitalization and surgery ) as relevant in this matter. But its far from being limited to people who have been abused, sexually or otherwise.
I haven't found much more recent research that sheds much fresh light on the subject, disappointingly.
As its often done secretly, its not easy to study, and as when revealed it can be very disturbing for the doc, nurses or therapists ( who are either upset or develop unhelpful ways of ignoring or minimizing it ) this also makes it difficult to study.
Some of my experience suggests that some people when under significant psychological stress / distress, tend to dissociate - to feel numb, and unpleasantly "dead" ; and cutting which in that state often does not hurt them as everyone else assumes it must, tends to be almost an "anti-suicide", associated with re-associating, returning to feeling more real and comforted.
Its not a recommendable method of achieving such a state, however, due to secondary complications - not only possible medical / surgical complications, but to causing nasty disruptions in relationships with family, friends and caregivers, and to leaving scars which bring back unpleasant memories later in life when this phase has been passed.

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