This article will continue the series on addictions with a particular emphasis on the addictive behavior of cutting and Self-Injury Behavior.
In the simplest terms, addictions are complete enslavement.
In the previous article we discussed that Addictions are “the abandoning of oneself to something compulsively or obsessively.” In the simplest terms, addictions are complete enslavement. Addictions begin as a means to alleviate tension or anxiety over something, or someone. Some addictions even begin out of curiosity. In the beginning the object of the addiction brings relief and freedom from the pain and anxiety, or even a thrilling high. Quickly though, the object becomes a cruel master and no longer brings relief. At this point the object of the addiction actually becomes a source of new anxiety and pain. This creates a cycle where the addict is no longer able to alleviate their pain and anxiety with their addiction, but they no longer have control over it, and cannot stop on their own. For many, they can no longer envision what their life would be like without the object of addiction. The idea of freedom from it can actually be less preferable to continued slavery.
Self-Injury Behavior (SIB)
The term “cutting” is a fairly recent term used to describe a particular behavior that falls under a greater category of actions called Self-Injury Behavior (SIB). SIB can easily become a blurry term when one considers all of the possible behaviors that are self-injuring. While there are in fact many actions that a person can commit that are self-injuring, not all actions that do such are considered SIB. For instance; it is true that eating fast food everyday is unhealthy and will injure your body over time, but this is not considered a behavior under SIB. Likewise, getting a tattoo or a body piercing is harmful to the body, but it these are not considered truly SIB. In order to narrow the definition and clarify the term, therapists use three terms to classify something as SIB or not. The first term is Directness, which refers to how intentional the behavior is. In other words, did the person use this behavior to intentionally harm their body? The second term is Lethality, which refers to how likely death would occur from the action committed. The final term is Repetition, which refers to how often the act is repeated over a period of time.
The Nature of SIB
SIB can include a wide variety of behaviors such as cutting, scab picking, burning, bruising, scratching, and even in more severe cases bone breaking has been documented.
SIB can include a wide variety of behaviors such as cutting, scab picking, burning, bruising, scratching, and even in more severe cases bone breaking has been documented. Though these behaviors are dangerous and can possibly be quite lethal, they are characteristically not committed with the intention of suicide in mind. This is a distinguishing characteristic of SIB. The greater majority of persons involved in SIB do not intend on killing themselves. The behavior is a way to respond to something else, without the extreme of suicide. The reasons why people use SIB are numerous. These reasons can include but are not limited to; escape from emptiness or depression, easing tension or anxiety, escaping numbness, providing relief from intense feelings, creating euphoria, preventing suicide, maintaining a sense of uniqueness, expressing the internal pain they feel, or even maintaining a sense of control over others. It is important to note that there are many possible reasons why a person would be involved in SIB, if someone is suspected of being caught in this addictive behavior, their own reason could be completely different from anyone else’s. Remembering this can be the difference in stereotyping them and discovering the real source of the problem.
What Does Self-Injury Provide?
Therapists group the many reasons why a person would self-injure into three main categories. The first category is Affect Regulation, which means bringing the body and mind back to a state of equilibrium or normalcy when internal or external trauma is present. This is often a way to give an outward expression of the inner pain, or even to curb the desire to commit suicide with less lethal injuries.
The next category is Communication, which refers to the act as a means of getting the attention of others, and getting a message of the pain out to the people around them. This category can often be seen as manipulation. It is important to note that persons who are caught in manipulative behavior are most often not doing it to create turmoil in the lives of others. They do it because they do not know how to communicate their need for help properly. People who are perceived as manipulative often do not possess the skills to properly communicate to the people around them. What may be perceived as acting out or being manipulative behavior may be the only way they know how to draw the attention of others toward them.
The third category is Control and Punishment, which refers to the use of SIB to control or punish ones self or others. This category also refers to the belief in some that the self-harm they inflict is actually maintaining the good things in their life. The behavior is like a good luck charm to some people involved in SIB.
Women and young girls are not culturally acclimated to express the pain they feel inside, so they typically turn it inward. SIB provides a way to control the pain in an inward way.
By means of one or more of the above categories, SIB provides a means for stability and control in the life of the addict. The behavior is their way of maintaining control over the one thing that they can still control, which is their body. The fact that the majority of the people involved in SIB are female is no coincidence either. Women and young girls are not culturally acclimated to express the pain they feel inside, so they typically turn it inward. SIB provides a way to control the pain in an inward way.
How to Respond
Constant prayer will break down the barriers that can prevent the healing process from taking place in their life.
Persons caught in SIB typically do not commit the acts of harm in places where the general public can see the results. Most often it will be people who are close to the individual and very much a part of their personal lives that will see the signs before anyone else will. The first thing you must do is respect the individual. This means that until you know for certain that there is a real incidence of SIB, you must be careful not to allow gossip to arise. Go to a professional, a church leader, or a trusted parent who can help determine the true nature of what is going on. The second thing to do is to pray. Constant prayer will break down the barriers that can prevent the healing process from taking place in their life. Finally, it is imperative that you love the person. This calls for a sacrificial love that Christ modeled to the Church. In the case of a person who is caught in an addiction, this means that you must distinguish between the person and the behavior. The behavior is not the person, but it is easy to treat a person caught in an addiction as if it is. Get people who can help involved, and protect the person from gossip. Then, lift them up in Christ-like love and prayer.