"When no boys are in the classroom girls take part more. They answer more questions, and they argue more. I guess you would say they debate more, but I remember the same situation happening when boys were in the class and a couple of them yelled out "Cat Fight!" The girls got angry, and they stopped debating."
Boarding School Guides:
Girls Who Cut: Understanding Self-Harm
By Jacqueline Bodnar
Though most people can't imagine taking a knife or other sharp instrument and deliberately cutting themselves, this behavior is very familiar to some young girls. Many girls have turning to "cutting" or other forms of self-harm on a regular basis - and they are doing it for a variety of reasons.
In order to fight back against the culture of cutting, parents and other concerned individuals need to understanding what cutting is, know what signs to look for, and learn the reasons why a girl may feel compelled to engage in this dangerous behavior.
Detecting A Cutter
It's easy for parents to have a daughter that is a cutter and not even realize it. After all, just how often do parents roll up their child's sleeves to see the top of their arms, or note the condition of their upper thighs - both of which are common places that girls choose to cut.
Just about anything that can be sharp enough to cut the skin can be used in the cutting process. Knives or other such tools are obvious choices, but many girls turn to using such things as staples, pens, barrettes, or even thumbtacks.
While nobody is immune to self-injury, experts believe there is a common profile among cutters:
- Many of the girls that cut come from middle to upper class Caucasian families, and are usually in their teen to young adult years. Some start even earlier, while in middle school.
- Cutting is not usually the only problem that the person is having. It's typically one aspect or sign that the girl is having other problems.
- The majority of people that cut themselves have problems that may be related to low self-esteem, drug or alcohol abuse, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and other traumatic experiences - including physical or sexual abuse.
- Peers can also be a cutting influence.
Pinpointing one reason why someone may take part in self-injury is difficult. There are a variety of reasons why cutters choose this route.
Most people that engage in self-injury do so because they have problems expressing their emotions. They use the cutting process as a way of releasing tension, anger, or stress, or to feel something other than the emotional pain they may be experiencing. Still others are seeking the actual pain brought on by the injury. A small portion of cutters do so because they are seeking attention - girls in this category are more likely to not take steps to hide the injuries they are inflicting upon themselves.
A parent that discovers their child is cutting themselves or engaging in other forms of self-injury should seek the help of a professional. Self-injury is generally a symptom of some other underlying problem that needs to be addressed.
Instead of simply getting a girl to stop her self-mutilation, it's important that parents engage professional help to ensure that their daughter understands why she was cutting and leans healthy ways of expressing her emotions so that she doesn't feel the need to return to cutting.
The good news is that, although serious injury can result from some of the cuts, cutters are not usually trying to kill themselves. But they are crying out for help.
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