From a 15 year old in Indonesia: Good day! I would like to describe my condition. For as long as I could remember, I just like the idea of self-harm and even harming others, also the sight of blood flowing out. I just feel as though I genuinely enjoy it. No sexual satisfaction in it whatsoever, I just find it interesting and more often calming. Whenever I see blood, wound, scratches, bruises (on myself or other people)– I feel enraptured by such sight.

To confirm, I do not like the feeling of pain nor causing pain to others. I’m not a sadist, masochist or sadomasochist.

I’ve been harming myself the past months. I like to scratch my arms and prick off a portion of skin, causing swelling and eventual bleeding. Since I have a cat, I usually blame him for the scratches.

While I dislike the feeling of pain, or rather– I often cannot feel it at all, I still harm myself. I’m just scared one day I might hurt someone else. Or worse, I might even cut off my body parts. That might be… Troublesome.

How do I deal with this problem? Thank you!

A: “Toublesome”? Yes! — Self-harm is an expression of emotional distress.Think of it as being symbolic. You hurt inside but can’t stand it and don’t know how to deal with it.. You are diverting yourself from your feelings by focusing on hurting yourself or others.

You are not at all alone in this. Self-harm happens most often in teens because there are new and powerful feelings that happen during adolescence. Teens who don’t know how to cope sometimes start cutting as a way to deal with them. Unfortunately, self-harm doesn’t take care of the root cause of the feelings. All it does is distract from them. But since self-harm is the only way the person knows how to get away from the feelings, it generally leads to more self-harm.

The first step is to start talking about your feelings to an adult you trust. You need to get them out instead of turning them in. Then you absolutely, absolutely must learn some coping skills. Emotional distress is often a fact of life. Sometimes it’s only a little. Sometimes it is a lot. But you can’t be human and avoid feeling powerful feelings every now and then. You need to learn how to manage those feelings in other ways.

You may be able to work on this on your own by researching self-harm and what to do about it. But if you can’t (and most people can’t), you should seek out a therapist. Ask your doctor to refer you to someone who can help. Professionals won’t judge you. They want to help you.

Please get help now — before the habit gets more entrenched. It will only get harder to deal with. Take care of yourself. You deserve to have a life that is rich in emotions without being overpowered by them.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie