Scratching as self-harm

Scratching as self-harm

More than 800,000 people in Germany are estimated to be affected by self-injurious behaviour (SVV), also known as autoaggression. According to experts, the number of unreported cases is also high. Scratching is one of the possibilities of self-harm in self-injurious behaviour, along with hair pulling, head-banging, burning, biting, or needles. Your skin is scratched with razor blades, knives, broken glass or scissors.

Self-harm: scratching as SVV

According to empirical studies, most people who self-harm as a form of self-harm are between the ages of 14 and 20. Scratching is not gender-specific, but more cases exist among girls than boys.

The triggers of auto-aggression are manifold. Anger, sadness, and emotional pain can lead to wanting to hurt yourself. However, auto aggression is also often seen as a side effect of other mental illnesses: borderline syndromebulimiaanorexiadepression, trauma or abuse.

A typical reaction from outsiders about those affected who cut themselves is usually the question of how you can do something like this to yourself. It is also often assumed that scratching should not only be seen as self-harm but also as an attempt at suicide. Psychologists and experts point out that scribing is not necessarily aimed at suicide. Instead, those affected urgently need to reduce stress and eliminate internal pressure that has built up. Many sufferers report that scratching makes them more accessible.


Feeling yourself through auto-aggression

But also, the urgent desire to feel yourself and to perceive your own body can hide behind the self-injurious behaviour cracks. According to this, experience reports state that many auto-aggressive people feel an inner emptiness; their body is just a shell without any emotions for them. By scratching as a form of self-harm, they have the feeling of feeling themselves again.

Another reason for the young person concerned can be the redirection of emotional pain into physical pain, which is also a possible form of pressure relief. A high level of anger and aggression towards oneself also often plays a decisive role in self-injurious behaviour. When scratching, inner anger is not projected onto fellow human beings or objects through aggression but onto oneself.

Mental pain is masked with physical pain by scratching. The fatal thing about scratching is that it can become a kind of addiction. The need to feel yourself, to release stress or pressure, can lead to a further and more intense need to scratch with each new self-injury.

Treat self-injurious behaviour

Scratching is by no means a fad but a severe condition. Self-injurious behaviour (SVV) of any kind is dangerous for one’s health and the psyche. Therapeutic measures such as behavioural therapy, trauma management or psychoanalytic talk therapy are strongly recommended for autoaggression.

Counselling centres or psychotherapists can provide help. In an emergency, a psychiatric or psychosomatic clinic’s outpatient clinic should be visited because scratches can always pose a significant health risk and may even cause a person affected to bleed to death.

Anyone who suspects young people are cutting themselves should not look the other way. In these situations, it is essential to build a relationship of trust. Even if parents are often initially shocked by their child’s behaviour, a reproachful reaction to the self-harm should be avoided. The earlier the therapy starts, the better the chances of getting the problem of auto-aggression under control.


Cracks as a health hazard

Many young people who cut themselves regularly ignore the possible dangers to their health caused by self-injury. Many side effects of scratching, such as circulatory problems, are even classified as “normal” by the young people affected. Deep cuts can leave noticeable scars on the skin. For this reason, auto-aggressive people like to choose parts of the body for scratching that can be covered by clothing on the outside. Arms, legs, shoulders, thighs or the stomach are the body parts most frequently affected by scratching.

Depending on the cut, muscles or even more prominent blood vessels can be injured; the latter can entail the risk of possible bleeding. A lack of hygiene when cutting, such as dirty shards or a dirty knife, can also get germs into the wound, which can lead to self-injury inflammation.

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