What are the Consequences of this Behaviour?
The cutting has consequences for a range of people, the sufferer, the family and carers, professionals and friends. In our society cutting often arouses feelings of hostility in others, including medical staff. When seeking help in emergency departments clients sometimes feel staff are angry with them for cutting. The self-inflicted wounds are sometimes sutured without anaesthetic. The professional does not understand that the suturing will be painful. Of course this is a generalization and there are some understanding staff out there, this is just an example of how some people can feel worse, more demoralized after contact with the professionals. We don’t know as yet enough of the brain’s neuro physiology to understand why a person may not feel pain when they cut but can feel severe pain later on when undergoing suturing. Perhaps a clue lies in hypnosis. We know certain people can undergo surgical procedures under hypnosis but without the hypnosis would feel intolerable pain. Maybe the brain operates on a number of levels not all levels experiencing the same level of pain.
Some staff have expressed the opinion that people who self harm are attention seeking and just are doing it deliberately. It is understandable that they hold this view when neither they nor the client are engaged in a meaningful recovery programme for the client who self harms.
Families can feel their loved one is mentally ill and must be hospitalized and kept safe. The families may be distressed and angry when professionals try and explain that prolonged hospitalization doesn’t help with the self-harm and actually in many cases makes it worse.
After an episode of cutting the sufferer can be left feeling ashamed, out of control and emotionally drained. They do not have the ability to self soothe and be strong in the face of setbacks and disappointments. The behaviour is part of a complex cycle of emotional pain manifest in ways that lead to even more pain. It leads to isolation and despair and there is no magic pill to help.