Why Do More Women Self Injure?

Lizzie Whitworth
Emotional Disorders, specifically self-injurers have not been well understood by outsiders; however, recently there has been a surge of information and books out there about the people who suffer from the disease, like our class text: Skin Game by Caroline Kettlewell. According to a 2000 cnn.com article entitled Self-Injury Poorly Understood Problem, there is an estimated 2 million people who self injure. “Cutting is the most common expression of this disorder, but burning, self-hitting, hair-pulling, bone-breaking and not allowing wounds to heal are other variations”. More than 70% of self cutters are women. This is a huge and frightening percentage! Even more disturbing, “What self-injurers have in common is that they are often children of divorce, and as many as 90 percent grew up in homes where communication between parents and child was lacking and where messy problems were ignored, avoided and ultimately left in silence”. Further, about 50% of self-injurers have a history of sexual or physical abuse.

How can cutting feel good?
Self-injurers cut in order to avoid their feelings of worthlessness, numbness, and detachment. “Self injurers would rather feel physical pain than emotional pain”. This quote really helps me understand the disorder much more.

As Educators, We Should Know the Signs:
Early detection and identification of emotional disturbances can go a long way – helping adolescents lead happier and more productive lives. However, are the signs clear cut? With hormonal changes and puberty, interesting and frightening dynamics between young people today, how do we know who to be concerned about? How do we know what is normal and what is not (unless it is blatantly obvious)? How many educators receive trainings or enough information on the signs of an emotional disturbance? This should be a training or information we push for at the start of this upcoming school year.

Treatment of Emotional Disturbances:
Psychological and medical treatments are now readily available upon diagnosis. Educators need to be trained on identifying and detecting emotional disturbances and need to be able to formulate an action plan for those children with the disorder. If a child is a self-injurer, there is only so much we can do in the classroom and school setting. We need to get the students family, the administration, and the Special Education Coordinator to find counseling and therapy for this student. However, even though there is only so much we can do – noticing the problem is the first and most important step – a huge responsibility on our part. Some self-injurers cut so that others will notice they need help, sometimes, they cannot say that on their own.