I had another topic in mind for our second post in this series but I found an excellent interview with Dr. Drew (you know from Celebrity Rehab & Love Line).  Aside from being an addiction specialist to the stars, Dr. Drew is an experienced doctor with good insight and access to even more teens than I see!  His interview with Oprah.com offers some important information on cutting that I think every teenager and parent ought to read.  While this behavior is often used to release pent up anxiety and stress, it is not enough to try to de-stress or manage anxiety better.  Cutting or self-injury is a symptom of a very serious issue that can not be resolved alone.  If you or someone you know is hurting themselves, you need help from a professional.  A therapist experienced at working with teenagers can help you understand why this may be happening as well as work with you and your family to stop it.  Here are some excerpts from Dr. Drew’s interview which you can read in its entirety on Oprah.com here.

EW: What is cutting?

Dr. Drew: It is an attempt at bodily mutilation, usually with a sharp object, and is rarely with the intent to harm. In other words, they’re not trying to kill themselves. They’re actually trying to get a certain emotional release from the experience of the pain.

EW: Who is typically drawn to this type of behavior?

Dr. Drew: It’s a sign of severe psychiatric pathology, however, because it has become so widely discussed, kids are copycatting and kids are picking up on this as an option. So, we’ve seen it more in recent years. The people who are drawn [to cutting] are a mixed bag; it is primarily people that are severely disturbed. I think the most common population would be trauma survivors.
People who have had severe childhood traumas lack the ability to regulate emotions and, as a result, gravitate toward whatever primitive means they can come up with. It is not the average healthy 16-year-old that is cutting herself when she gets a bad grade on a math exam. It is a kid with real problems. If a kid shows up cutting, they have to see a doctor. This is a sign that something is very wrong.

EW: Is cutting a cry for help?

Dr. Drew: It is not a cry for help. People are ashamed of cutting, and they hide it. They usually [cut] in places that are covered by clothing, they do it on their thighs on the inner surface of their arms and they’ll carefully hide it. Often, parents don’t know about it for years.

EW: What if you find out your child is cutting?

Dr. Drew: If you have a child who is cutting, you have to get professional help. It is a gigantic mistake to try to do this alone. This is a sign of severe psychiatric pathology. The cutting may settle down, but that child is going have further problems going forward. It is a sign that you need help now. You will pay now or pay later, and it will be worse later.

interview excerpted from Oprah.com interview by Erin White- http://www.oprah.com/article/relationships/parenting/20090921-orig-teens-cutting-dr-drew