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Demi Lovato Was Reportedly Cutting Herself

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Demi Lovato has entered treatment, reportedly for cutting. No matter what you may call it -- self-mutilation, cutting, self-harm or self-injury, this type of intentional self-destructive behavior to one's own body is a serious concern.

Demi Lovato

Maggie Baumann, MA: According to Mental Health America, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people live mentally healthy lives, the most common method of self-injury is cutting.

However, other self-injurious behaviors can include:

  • Scratching
  • Burning
  • Biting
  • Bruising
  • Head-banging
  • Picking at skin
  • Hair pulling (trichotillomania)
  • Hitting

Teens are particularly at risk of self-mutilation, with more girls affected than boys. Besides gender and age, other common factors seen with this behavior include people who have a history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. It's also more prevalent in teens who have co-existing problems, such as alcohol/drug abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder and eating disorders. Additionally, it is seen in people who lack skills to express their emotions and are known to have a poor support network.

During an initial consultation with a new client in my practice as a therapist, one of the questions I always ask is about any self-harming behaviors, past or present. More than 50 percent of the eating disorder clients I see acknowledge a history of cutting behaviors. Once, a client showed me the inside of her forearm, where she had a four-inch scar displaying the words, "I am fat."

Is Cutting a Suicide Attempt?
Well, it can be. But in most cases, the intent of self-injury is rarely a suicide attempt. However, any self-injury attempt could accidentally lead to death.

More often than not, self-injury is simply a mechanism for coping with extreme emotional distress. It can relieve intense feelings, anger or anxiety. It can provide a way for someone to break emotional numbness or feel some sort of reality. Physically, self-mutilation is thought to release endorphins, neurotransmitters in the brain that cause a "high-like" feeling.

Warning Signs of Self-Injury
Teens who self-injure usually go to great lengths to cover up their injuries to prevent parents or other adults from discovering their secret. Some of the signs to look for include:

  • Appearance of abnormal number of bruises, scars, or scratches
  • Wearing pants or long sleeves in warm weather
  • Finding razors or other sharp objects in your teen's room
  • Low self-esteem and/or depression
  • Difficulty expressing feelings in words
  • Relationship conflicts
  • Poor functioning at home, school or work

Parent's Role in Treatment
Seek professional help for your teen from a trained family therapist. Anti-anxiety and/or antidepressants prescribed by a doctor may also be helpful in stabilizing the teen's mood.

As a parent, it's important not to shame your teen or show any signs of disgust at his/her behavior. Be accepting and compassionate that your teen is sending you a signal for help with an emotional issue he/she is not able to cope with in a healthy way. Open your lines of communication with your teen -- and participate in family therapy, if indicated.

next: 7-Year-Old MattyB Raps Ke$ha
74 comments so far | Post a comment now
XXXXX November 2, 2010, 6:03 PM

Cuts like a knife!

HeeHee November 2, 2010, 6:07 PM

Another messed up child actor.

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Anon November 3, 2010, 8:23 AM

Her mom was a DCC.

jonson November 8, 2010, 7:14 PM
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lauren white November 9, 2010, 5:27 PM

im still a fan and i feel super bad for demi i hope she feels better

Anonymous November 16, 2010, 6:52 AM

ya know all those who call her emo… not cool. she’s still someones kid, someones friend, niece, cousin, etc. would you like it if someone called your kid/friend (or whoever) emo? no.

poor demi. hope she recovers, she’s so cute, and very talented!

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For teens, young adults, and parents going through the same issues, I highly recommend the book “Cut” by Patricia McCormick. It deals deeply and realistically with the emotional and practical sides of these issues. It could really help people understand what their friends and loved ones are going through.

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