Self Injury

Adult -


Skin Game - Caroline Kettlewell - Amazon US UK
A number of recent books by journalists and therapists have probed the social and psychological forces behind the alarming practice of self-mutilation; this unflinching memoir tells readers what it feels like. Caroline Kettlewell made her first attempt at age 12 with a Swiss Army knife, too dull to perform satisfactorily, but she quickly graduated to razor blades. "There was a very fine, an elegant pain," she writes of her initiation. "In the razor's wake, the skin melted away ... then the blood welled up ... the chaos in my head spun itself into a silk of silence." Describing her tense but not unusually difficult youth, the author doesn't spend a lot of time trying to figure out why she was so unhappy, concentrating instead on making palpable her sense of dread and terror of being out of control, emotions relieved by the act of cutting. Some readers may wish for more self-analysis, but others will find Kettlewell's austere prose and sensibility refreshing. "I kept cutting because it worked. When I cut I felt better, " she explains. "I stopped cutting because I always could have stopped cutting." Not the fanciest way to put it, but those sentences, like the entire book, have the cadences of "the plain and inelegant truth." --Wendy Smith

Self Injury: Psychotherapy With People Who Engage in Self-Inflicted Violence -

Bodies Under Siege : Self-Mutilation and Body Modification in Culture and Psychiatry - Paper
Armando R. Favazza - Hardcover
Review by from Seattle, WA, USA , March 2, 1998 stars-5-0.gif (240 bytes)
Valuable information for understanding self-injury -
This is the second edition of Bodies under Siege, and in it Favazza improves an excellent survey of self-mutilation by adding extensive material on classification and treatment of self-injurious behavior. The original edition was probably the first important book on this topic. Part one is a fascinating sociological overview of mutilative behavior in society and religion, placing it in context. Favazza explores the links between cannibalism, self-injury, and eating disorders in this section. You can understand SI without knowing this information, but the context is useful.
In part two, he looks at specific clinical cases of self-mutilation. Having read this section, I was able to much more easily understand the distinctions between types of self-injury that Favazza draws in part three. The epilogue, combined with the information in part three, helped me to understand where the line between self-injury and ornamental body modification lies. Those who self-injure will probably be most interested in part three, where Favazza explores the types of pathological self-injury and discusses psychiatric classifications and treatment. Bodies under Siege is not meant as a self-help book. It will, however, give you insight into the origins of self-injury and into the ways in which the psychiatric profession views this behavior (and how those views are slowly changing), as well as suggesting directions for those seeking treatment.

Cutting : Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation - Steven Levenkron
     Known as the illness of the 1990s, close to two million Americans and possibly more suffer from the psychological disorder of self-mutilation. The most prominent public admission was that of Princess Diana. Written for the self-mutilator, parents, friends, and therapists, Levenkron unravels step by step the mindset of the self-mutilator, explains why the disorder manifests in self-harming behaviors, and, most of all, describes how the self-mutilator can be helped. Through riveting case studies and conversations with his patients, the profile of the self-mutilator emerges: someone who is typically fearful of people and abandonment, whose attachments are hostile or tenuous at best, who lacks interpersonal trust, and who often can't stay focused in a relationship of any depth. Cutting tells the reader where to turn for help and offers important skills the self-mutilator must learn - what Levenkron calls the "Attachment-Dependency Trust Axis" - in order to overcome the affliction.

The Scarred Soul : Understanding & Ending Self-Inflicted Violence - Tracy Alderman, Ph.D.
     Self-inflicted violence. Written for the victims of this addiction--and for mental health professionals--The Scarred Soul explores the reasons behind this behavior and shows how to overcome the psychological traps that lead to self-destructive acts. Illustrations and charts.
From the author, Tracy Alderman, Ph.D.
     "My hope is that The Scarred Soul will help educate people on the topic of self-inflicted violence. There are numerous activities designed to help you better understand and cope with this difficult issue. Therapists, friends and family members of people who engage in self-inflicted violence can also benefit from reading this book. I wrote this book because the topic is so misunderstood and largely ignored. I hope you find it useful."

Women Who Hurt Themselves : A Book of Hope and Understanding - Dusty Miller
From Kirkus Reviews , 03/15/94
     Women Who Hurt Themselves explores the suffering of women who reenact childhood trauma, particularly abuse or neglect, through self-destructive behavior. Miller is a therapist who has treated hundreds of women with this condition (which she labels Trauma Reenactment Syndrome, or TRS) and whose behaviors include self-mutilation, alcoholism, drug addiction, and eating disorders

Understanding Self-Injury: A Workbook For Adults - Kristy Trautmann, B.S. and Robin Connors, Ph.D.
     Self-injury has remained one of the most hidden aspects of many survivors' lives and one of the least understood effects of trauma. This unique workbook for people who deliberately hurt themselves provides information and elicits self-exploration through focused writing and drawing exercises. Choice and pacing are encouraged, making it accessible to people with varying needs and resources.

A Bright Red Scream : Self-Mutilation and the Language of Pain - by Marilee Strong
From Kirkus Reviews , September 15, 1998
A compassionate and informed discussion of self-mutilation, the ``addiction of the '90s, practiced by two million or more Americans. Self-mutilation has surfaced as a fad of pubescent girls, who use razor blades to carve their forearms with, for instance, names of their boyfriends. It's called cutting and is what Dr. Armando Favazza, in the preface, refers to as ``superficial/moderate'' self-mutilation. In other cultures or at other times, cutting, flagellation or similar forms of self- mortification have been regarded as physically healing, spiritually uplifting, or tribally bonding. Today Americans are horrified at the idea of painful blood-letting, associating it immediately with suicide. But the cutters described here are neither faddish or suicidal. They are using their razors, knives, broken glassor cigarette lightersto live. Like anorexia and bulimia (also efforts to gain control), some forms of self-mutilation serve as controls for unbearable rage and emotional pain that would otherwise lead to a psychotic break. Many cutters have suffered sexual or physical abuse as children, and the trauma they carry with them as adults is similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, says Strong. Among the symptoms is dissociation, where mind and body separate, leaving ``numbness and emptiness.'' For some, the only way to reunite the two is by hurting themselvesthe pain returns them to awareness. It may also release ``natural opiates,'' like endorphins, that minimize the emotional and physical pain; that may be one reaction that contributes to the addictive nature of the experience. Strong (a journalist who has written previously on child victims of war trauma) examines the theories of physiology, psychology, sociology, and neuroscience in relation to the need to self-mutilate; enriching her research are interviews with more than 50 cutters, some found on the Internet site where self- mutilators can talk to one another. The final two chapters discuss treatment alternatives. Humane, empathetic, and informed exploration of a frightening complex of behavior; it will be valuable to professionals, families, friends, and most of all to the cutters themselves. (Author tour) -- Copyright Š1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Young Adult -

Self-Mutilation - Alicia Clarke

Everything You Need to Know About Self-Mutilation : A Helping Book for Teens Who Hurt Themselves - Gina Ng