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Self-Mutilation: Myths and Truths

Self-Mutilation: Myths and Truths


Self-mutilation is a behavior (dependence) in which physical suffering is self-inflicted through knives, scissors, cigarette butts and other elements of torture. It takes place through the application of cuts and burns to the body, so that the pain can somehow alleviate the torment that the psychological part is suffering.

Let’s look at some associated myths and truths.

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1. What is it?

Contrary to what you might think, the goal of self-mutilation is not suicide, but the physical relativization of psychological and emotional pain. There is, however, the real danger of the consequences of a cut made deeper in a dangerous area, not least because, at some point, individuals who resort to such an “anesthetic” no longer feel pain. The non-resolution of the problems and the accentuated suffering may, therefore, constitute a risk factor for suicide. At the base of self-mutilation is a very low self-esteem and the belief that suffering is deserved.


``(…) I didn't feel pain, in fact strangely I felt relieved. I haven't stopped since. (…) in a few days I bled non-stop, but sadistically I liked to see all that blood. The worst thing was when a cut was less I need to have a main vein perforated. When I woke up I was already in a hospital bed. (…)

Self-harm is not exhibitionistic behavior. Most of the subjects look for more hidden areas of the body that can be covered with pieces of clothing to hide their scars, being ashamed of them. These acts are performed in the privacy of the bedroom and bathroom, away from the eyes of others. Individuals seek to hide cuts and burns while they can, as a secret that gives them power and control..


“To hide the cut marks, I wore long shirts. Also, she cut my legs because that always aroused less suspicion.”

Self-mutilation can appear concomitantly with several disorders, in particular with eating disorders. Being attentive to detect the warning signs of these disorders can make the difference between life and death; there are many cases of self-mutilation that are admitted to hospital emergency rooms every day. Still, self-harm can appear in conjunction with symptoms of depression and social phobia. At its genesis is intense and continuous suffering and persistent despair, characterized by absolute disbelief in oneself, in others and in life.

Self-mutilation results from not developing healthy strategies to deal with anguish, revealing a weakness in the construction of personality. This habit, made into a pattern, is extremely difficult to break, as it is one way for individuals with this compulsion to deal with pressure or suffering.

There is an aspect of self-mutilation in which inscriptions on the body work as identification factors within a group, confusing suffering with aesthetics. The scarification it’s a scar similar to a tattoo, only executed with a scalpel. The branding, equally painful, stamps the skin with a hot iron, as is done with certain animals.

2. Symptoms

Sleep and appetite disturbances, feelings of guilt, decreased academic/professional performance, and sometimes thoughts of suicide expressed in words are some of the symptoms associated with this disease. Sometimes it is a source of pride and rest for parents that a young person does not like to go out at night, because he will be away from an environment where he drinks, smokes or consumes other substances, in addition to not getting into trouble. However, the refusal to socialize with people your own age and the lack of friends can indicate that something is not right. When it comes to discovering what is not going the best way, the individual is often already obsessed with the torture of his body.

3. Is there treatment?

Yes! This disease that challenges the person’s own life is likely to be overcome with proper specialized treatment that looks at the individual as a whole, and not just their addiction. Seek expert help!

In short, these acts aim at different ways of accessing temporary relief and a brief detachment from the soul’s bitterness. Although statistics point to a decrease in the number of suicides, there are risk indicators that are increasing, such as the case of parasuicides, that is, self-harm. It is important to note that these acts are performed by people of any age group or gender.


Self-harm affects less than 10% of teenagers and is more frequent in girls, although it also happens to boys. Self-mutilation arises when dealing with physical pain seems easier than dealing with emotional pain and suffering. It usually happens in secret, without anyone knowing. Thus, it is a way of causing pain or superficial damage to the body, but without the intention of causing death.

Even when self-harm does not cause death, people who do it are likely to be more likely to attempt or commit suicide. Thus, physicians and family members should not belittle the practice of self-mutilation.

Do not ignore this problem, even if it is not directly with you. Always count on us.


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