I have a great life: Good job, great family, a roof over me and food on my table. People at home and at work regularly tell me how much they love and appreciate me. I am happy all the time.

I also love to cut words, pictures, and patterns into my arms and legs. Recently, someone close to me found one of my works (the words, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy!”, across my forearm), and they are now extremely concerned.

Is there really anything to be concerned about, or was she overreacting?

A: No, your friend is not overreacting. Yes, there is something to be concerned about. At a minimum, you’ve developed a habit that could result in serious infection. Of more concern is that you may have become physiologically “addicted” to the endorphins that are released when you self-harm. You may have also become psychologically “addicted” to the almost meditative state that you get into when you are cutting.

Often people do this to avoid thinking about troubling issues or to distract themselves from something. It could be that you are as happy as you say. It could also be that you are so constantly “happy” because you are avoiding the everyday stresses that make most people at least a little bit unhappy a little bit of the time. One way to discover whether you have a habit or if you are covering distress is to try to stop. Let yourself experience the anxiety that comes up and see what surfaces.

A little self-reflection is required here. If you are so happy, why do you need to post an advertisement about not worrying on your arm for you and all to see? Unhappiness isn’t totally a bad thing. The experience of some unhappiness makes happiness all the sweeter. Think about it.

If this is simply a habit you’ve fallen into, by all means, gather up your willpower and stop. If this behavior is a coverup for larger issues, I suggest you sign up for a few sessions with a counselor to help you develop some coping skills that don’t endanger your health and wellbeing.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Dec 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). I Like To Carve Words and Pictures into my skin. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 16, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/12/24/i-like-to-carve-words-and-pictures-into-my-skin/