Students reveal emotional, physical toll of self-destruction

(ARA) – Self-mutilation comes in many forms with many motives behind it. Whether it’s cutting, restricting food intake, or purging, hurting oneself is usually an underground phenomenon.

Now, a group of students, former cutters and battlers of eating disorders from West Brook, a high school on the East Coast of the United States, are reaching out to the student body to share their experiences in an effort to promote prevention and to provide hope.

Hurting oneself externally comes in many forms. Cutting ones skin with a sharp object, is most common, but there’s also burning.

Senior Courtney Lovett used to engage in the latter. ‘It didn’t quite satisfy like I needed, but it would take the edge off and was small enough not to be noticed,” she says.

The temporary relief and satisfaction brought on by physically hurting oneself becomes an addictive quick fix for whatever emotional problems or difficult situations the person goes through.

One misconception, especially for cutters, is that people who hurt themselves are doing so in an attempt to end their life. Junior Sarah Ballin displays scars on her arm that have gotten her sent to a counselor every year since she’s had them.

Other methods of handling emotions and stress such as eating disorders can be just as destructive as self-harm.

‘The eating disorder mindset takes over people,’ says Carolyn Costin, founder and clinical director of The Eating Disorder Center of California and Monte Nido residential centres and author of several books.

Fear of food is just one potential part of an eating disorder, but the way the person feels after eating certain foods does influence the amount they intake or if they try getting rid of it afterwards.

Much like cutting and burning, eating disorders can become compulsive no matter what health risks may be encountered.

‘The first step [in getting help] is acknowledging there is a problem,’ Susan Steely, a licensed professional counselor of Good Therapy Works, a Midwestern counseling centre, says. ‘Listening to other people [helps]; they may notice it or point it out first. Sometimes we can’t see the truth for ourselves. Seek someone in counseling to deal with [the problem].’

Professional guidance is often advised. Having friends or family supporting one’s recovery also helps.

‘What really helped me [stop cutting] was that I had friends who said I shouldn’t do it,’ Ballin says. ‘It wasn’t always enough, but it helped. I’d be like, ‘Kevin loves me, and I don’t want to let him down.”

Costin also feels that having a support system around an individual during the recovery process makes a difference. For parents and friends to better help their loved one, she offers this advice: ‘Understand that the person is taken over by their illness. Friends and relatives have to align with the person against the illness. It is important not to be in battle with the person.’

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